Impact Stories

Impact Stories ​

Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2018

OC community raises $12,000 for students

Thanks to the generosity of the Okanagan College community more than $12,000 was raised to support students and new facilities on Giving Tuesday.
OC staff and students smile for a photo on Giving TuesdayThis was the first year Okanagan College participated in Giving Tuesday, a global day dedicated to giving and volunteering taking place each year after Black Friday. 

In honour of the day, the Okanagan College Foundation ran a series of short profiles recognizing and celebrating staff and faculty who give back. The Foundation also hosted a number of events to engage staff on the Kelowna campus.

“We can’t thank the Okanagan College community enough for their support,” says Kathy Butler, Okanagan College Foundation Executive Director. “Participation from staff, faculty and our larger community shows that caring really does start here.” 

Some of the funds raised will go toward the new Health Sciences Centre, currently under construction on the Kelowna campus. A number of other gifts were directed to student scholarships and support.

“I have been here for 18 years and I’m grateful to come to work every day. I feel very fortunate and now it is my turn to give back,” says Angelika March, Assistant to the Regional Dean Kelowna campus, who participated in the giving campaign.

The Okanagan College Foundation would like to give special thanks to the different departments for contributing with in-kind support:

• Food Services for providing Cookies and Coffee

• Carpentry Trades & Gateway to Trades for Youth program for providing Christmas ornaments

• Okanagan College Alumni Association for providing the wine prizes

• OCSU Kelowna for hosting a Food Pantry collection bin

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Awards a ‘tremendous relief’ for aspiring nurse

Okanagan College student Jenna Kellerman

Jenna Kellerman recently wrote to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and B.C. Premier John Horgan to highlight the challenges for people living in poverty.

Prior to starting upgrading at Okanagan College, Kellerman, a single mother of four boys, would never have dreamed she’d be advocating on issues to government leaders.

“Going back to school has given me the confidence and the voice to speak up,” says Kellerman.

“It’s made me think from a different point of view. I’m not scared to speak up anymore, I am maturing as a person and finding my voice.”

Kellerman is currently completing upgrading in order to pursue her dream career as a Licensed Practical Nurse. While in the past, Kellerman wouldn’t describe herself as doing well in school, she’s worked hard to achieve high grades and set an example for her sons.

Her hard work is paying off in more ways than one. Kellerman is being recognized with two awards from the Okanagan College Foundation.

“It’s such an honour to receive these awards and a tremendous relief,” says Kellerman, adding one of the awards brought her to tears when she learned it came from professors at the College.

Pic of Jenna Kellerman and her four sons“These awards will go a long way in helping me pay for my education.”

Kellerman is one of approximately 385 students who will be receiving scholarships and bursaries at three awards receptions hosted by Okanagan College. The first event took place in Penticton Nov. 14, followed by Vernon tonight and Kelowna Nov. 22.

The award receptions are an opportunity for people in the community who set up scholarships to meet the students and learn first-hand how the financial support is helping them succeed in school.

In total, nearly $500,000 will be awarded to Okanagan College students.

“Community support means a great deal to our students and our institution,” observes Okanagan College President Jim Hamilton.

“Awards open doors for students and recognize their hard work and achievements. The support is also a signal of the value our communities place on a skilled workforce and how they are willing to invest in the leaders of tomorrow. We are grateful for the support.”

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Penny Lane supports students with investment in child care

A Summerland charity’s gift to the new child care centre at Okanagan College is helping give South Okanagan families peace of mind and access to quality child care.  

Picture of Penny Lane directors

The Summerland Charity Shop Society, which formally ran Summerland’s Penny Lane Bargain Outlet stores, announced a $5,000 donation to the new Little Learners Academy at the Penticton campus of the College. 

“It’s challenging for parents to find child care,” says Orv Robson, Chairman of the Penny Lane Legacy Fund. 

“Little Learners provides a solid start to learning for children and makes it easier for their parents to pursue the next step of their education.”

Putting youth and education is at the forefront of what Penny Lane does.  In 2013, with the closing of its retail stores, the board of directors of the Society created the Penny Lane Community Legacy Fund with the Community Foundation of the South Okanagan Similkameen.

The fund invests in the community with a focus on youth projects. According to Robson, supporting Little Learners fits in with their mandate to make access to education more equitable for youth. 

“The Centre will be a benefit for students and families today and for years to come,” adds Robson. “It’s a gem for the Okanagan Valley.”

Penny Lane has a long history of assisting students at Okanagan College and has supported two student bursaries annually since 2011.

“Penny Lane continues to make an incredible impact in the region, and we’re very thankful to be receiving this generous donation,” says Mary Ellen Heidt – Chair for the Child Care Centre campaign.

Little Learners opened in September 2017 and is operated through a partnership between Okanagan College and OneSky Community Resources. Registration is open to College students and employees, as well as families in the South Okanagan.

Related: Penticton Child Care Centre named one of Canada’s most sustainable buildings


Friday, October 12, 2018

Tolko chips in for Vernon youth

VERNON – Sixteen year old Vernon Secondary School student Nemo Des Mazes says she prefers working with her hands and building things rather than sitting in a classroom.

Tolko is supporting Okanagan CollegeWhen the chance came to take part in the Youth Trades Explorer Sampler at Okanagan College, she eagerly signed up.

The program gives high school students an opportunity to discover the trades as a career with hands-on technical training in six fields including plumbing, carpentry and electrical.

The innovative program, a partnership between School District 22 and the College, is not only attracting students, it’s also garnered the interest and support of a local employer.

Tolko Industries has donated $11,000 plus in-kind support toward the training at Okanagan College.

“We are passionate about youth and this fits with our long-term strategy to build our workforce and our communities,” says Tanya Wick, Tolko’s Vice President, People and Services.

“This program is helping young people gain the skills and experience that can help set them up for success.”

While this year’s student cohort is only in their second week of trades training, they’ve already progressed from building a deck chair to picnic tables. The lumber for their projects was also donated from Tolko’s Armstrong mill.

“It’s always very meaningful for us at the College to see an employer in the region invest in the training of our students,” says Teresa Kisilevich, Okanagan College’s Associate Dean of Trades and Apprenticeship.

“Students see that local businesses want them to succeed.”

Both School District 22 and Okanagan College are interested in elevating trades training as a career choice for students earlier on in their education. 

The program can be a game changer for students who aren’t always successful in academics by empowering them to dive and explore a variety of trades at a full-time level for 10 weeks, according to Joe Rogers, Superintendent of Schools at School District 22. 

“This gives kids an opportunity to go towards their passion. If you put a kid where they are happy they will do good work,” says Rogers.

“It’s also a win-win for our community as there is a shortage of trades workers.”

Patrick Kenny, who is participating in the current program says he’s always known that he’s wanted to get into the trades.

“I am really liking the program, and the College is welcoming,” he says.

In addition to lumber, Tolko is exploring how else it can support the Youth Trades Sampler program, including having the students take a tour of their Armstrong mill.

The students are working in Okanagan College’s new Trades Training Centre, which opened in August. The $6.2-million, 1,250 square-metre (13,450 square-foot) facility can accommodate approximately 150 students per year and features a dedicated welding shop and multi-use spaces in which the College can deliver training in carpentry, electrical, and plumbing and pipefitting, along with specialized training like the Youth Trades Sampler.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Kiwanis gives $125k to Okanagan College to support youth

The Kiwanis Club of Kelowna is donating $125,000 to Okanagan College to support students who will graduate and work with children and youth in the community.

Picture of Kiwanis Club of Kelowna members celebrate their announcement of a new $125,000 endowment at Okanagan College with students, Okanagan College representatives and children from Little Scholars child care.The major gift establishes the Kiwanis Kelowna 2018 Legacy Education Endowment, which will provide two annual $2,000 scholarships to a student in the Early Childhood Education (ECE) and Human Service Work (HSW) programs.

“Both early childhood educators and human service workers play a major role in supporting the well-being of children and youth,” says Bob Bissell, President of the Central Okanagan Kiwanis Community Service Society.

“We wanted to help ease some of the financial burden on these students so they can better focus on their studies, which ultimately benefits our community’s children and youth.”

Students, College representatives and children from Little Scholars child care took part in applauding the announcement at Okanagan College Friday, Sept. 21.

“We’re thankful to the Kiwanis Club of Kelowna, which has worked for more than 40 years to make a difference in the lives of children and seniors in our community,” says Jim Hamilton, Okanagan College President.

“With the establishment of this significant endowment, Kiwanis is helping students today and tomorrow. In turn, these students will enhance the quality of life for children and youth in our community for decades to come.”

Second year ECE student Jo-Dee Lebrun spoke at the event, sharing her experience in the program. 

“At first, starting a new chapter in my life felt really overwhelming but with the guidance from our instructors a passion was lit inside me for not only this career but advocating for children and other early childhood educators,” says Lebrun.

“This program has taught us to not only be better educators but better human beings.”

The funds for the endowment came from the sale of the Kiwanis Tower, located at the corner of Lawrence and Gordon. The high rise was designed to provide affordable housing to low-income seniors and was managed by the Kiwanis Clubs of Kelowna for over 40 years until the sale in 2016.

Central Okanagan Kiwanis Community Service Society is using the funds from the sale to support children and youth locally and has donated to a number of charities.

Bissell says Kiwanis chose Okanagan College because it has an excellent reputation and the programs to ensure the investment is well utilized beyond the foreseeable future.

The donation will support the College’s Caring Starts Here campaign, which aims to raise money for the $18.9-million Health Sciences Centre located on the Kelowna campus, as well as student scholarships and bursaries.


Sept. 11, 2018

Kathy Butler to retire from Okanagan College at the end of the year

Kathy Butler, Executive Director of the Okanagan College Foundation, has announced her decision to retire, which comes after a 15-year career with the College and the Foundation. 

Picture of Kathy Butler, smiling.Butler will be leaving a legacy of growth and development and a significant record of fundraising and leadership since she stepped aboard in 2003. 

The Foundation has raised more than $33 million in the intervening years, successfully navigating the shift from the OUC Foundation to the OC Foundation. Under Butler’s guidance, and with the support of an army of dedicated volunteers and staff, it has helped build a much larger and more modern, sustainable college and assisted a large number of students achieve their education and career goals.

More than that, it has helped build the reputation of Okanagan College as a progressive, caring institution that is supported by the communities it serves.
"I’m sad to see Kathy leave, but pleased that she will be able to find more time to spend with her family and enjoy her other interests and pursuits," says Okanagan College President Jim Hamilton.
"Please join me in expressing our thanks to Kathy and extending best wishes for her retirement."

Click here to view Butler's video message announcing her retirement.

Okanagan College will be recruiting for a replacement for Butler over the coming months.

Friday, August 24, 2018

Black Hills Estate grows new support for viticulture students

Viticulture students at Okanagan College have something new to cheer about.

Photo of Black Hills Estate Winery Director Glenn Fawcett and Eric Corneau, Regional Dean for the South Okanagan-Similkameen inspect some grapes growing on the rooftop of Okanagan College.

Black Hills Estate Winery is creating a new scholarship fund to provide awards up to $5,000 annually to aspiring winemakers and viticulturists.

“If someone from the valley has a goal and an aspiration to get into the wine industry we'd like to be part of helping enable them to have a career,” says Glenn Fawcett, Black Hills Estate Winery Director.

The funds for the student awards came from a unique fundraiser held at Black Hills. Every year, the Oliver winery hosts a release party for its latest batch of signature wine, Nota Bene. The event draws hundreds of people who enjoy food, drinks, live entertainment and a silent auction. The proceeds of the silent auction are donated to a local charity.

This year’s event raised $16,000 which is providing funding for the new student awards.

Fawcett says finding employees is one of the biggest challenges in the wine industry, and he hopes the awards will inspire new students to pursue the craft.

“We believe we need to have a community of people who are making a career in the wine industry,” says Fawcett, adding he’s impressed by the quality of the students coming out of Okanagan College’s viticulture programs.

“Having a local program for wine production and hospitality is the best way for us to grow together.”

“We’re thrilled to receive this support from Black Hills Estate Winery,” says Eric Corneau, Regional Dean for the South Okanagan-Similkameen. “Supporting students financially through scholarships is a very powerful and meaningful way to foster the conditions for student success.”

Okanagan College Penticton campus offers several training and education programs for the wine industry, including Viticulture Certificate, Wine Sales Certificate and Winery Assistant Certificate. The campus is also running a pilot delivery of the Viticulture Technician Diploma, which runs until April 2019.