Previous Posts(10)
First grad of OC’s new HR Post-Bacc reflects on her experience
College’s 13th Annual Business Expo & Employment Fair powers up Tech Alley collaboration
OC alum makes national honour roll for Common Final Exam
New OC grad proud of setting an example for her children
OC Physics and Astronomy professor discusses what life is like in Penticton (on Mars)
Future caregivers given boost by Central Okanagan Foundation
Okanagan College students and staff coordinate exhibit, awareness activities for Sexual Assault Awareness Month
OC Speaker Series returns with a focus on the environment
OC Business students ready to bring their best at International case competition
OC Culinary Arts debuts Indigenous-inspired feature menu for Dine Around
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First grad of OC’s new HR Post-Bacc reflects on her experience
Okanagan College Media Release


Elaine Bertram Jan 2020Okanagan College’s first graduating class of the new decade will cross the stage today and among the some 600 grads picking up their parchment will be Elaine Bertram who is celebrating an exciting first for herself and the School of Business.

Bertram is the innaugural graduate of the College’s Human Resources Management Post-Baccalaureate Diploma program.

“When they told me I was the first graduate of the program I was shocked – but in a good way,” says Bertram. “It's an honour to be the first graduate.”

The program, which launched in the fall of 2018, is accredited with the Charted Professional in Human Resources (CPHR) and is considered to be equivalent to a Bachelor’s of Business Administration with a Human Resources specialty.

“If you want to go into HR and have another degree already, this is the best way to do it,” says Bertram. “The professors are amazing – they care about your education and help you to achieve your goals. The courses are in depth but are taught at a comprehensible level.”

The two-year program is aimed at students with a bachelor's degree in any business or non-business program other than those with a Human Resources Management major or specialty, who wish to pursue a career in the Human Resources Management field.

“I really liked how flexible the program was,” adds Bertram. “The classes did not clash with one another so I was able to take all the classes I wanted and still cover the program requirements. There were options to take courses online which I opted not to do until I needed to, as the professors make the classes enjoyable to attend. There were a lot of group projects so I met a lot of great people and made some friends right away, which was great.”

Bertram is currently the Plant Administrator at BC Tree Fruits with plans of taking some time off after graduation to do some traveling.

“I'm really proud of the fact that this program pushed me to do the best I can, and it showed. I competed in competition and achieved high grades, making Dean's List for the first time in my whole time in post-secondary education.”

“We congratulate all our graduands on their successes, and acknowledge the hard work and dedication they invested to get here,” says OC President Jim Hamilton. “Our students and alumni have an immense positive impact within the region, across the province and beyond. Today, as we send hundreds more graduates out into the world, that impact continues to grow.”

Winter convocation is the first of the College’s eight ceremonies that take place this year. Around 600 students from all four campuses will cross the stage today at the Kelowna campus to receive their credentials.

The morning ceremony will begin at 10 a.m. and the afternoon ceremony at noon. Both ceremonies will stream live on the College’s Facebook page.


College’s 13th Annual Business Expo & Employment Fair powers up Tech Alley collaboration
Okanagan College Media Release

Jobseekers, mark your calendars. Okanagan College’s popular Business Expo & Employment Fair is back for its thirteenth year, once again connecting students and community members with a diverse array of employers from the Okanagan and across the country.Business Expo

The Okanagan College School of Business and OC’s Student, Graduate and Co-op Employment Centre is presenting the 13th Annual Business Expo & Employment Fair on Wednesday, Feb. 5. The event is held at Okanagan College’s Kelowna campus in the Centre for Learning (E building) Atrium from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.

The expo continues to grow year after year, notes Jamie Morrow, Okanagan School of Business Program and Event Coordinator.

“We’ve got another incredible line up of exhibitors this year – more than 75 employers from a host of sectors. There really is something for everyone, no matter what field you’re looking to get into, or advance your career,” says Morrow.

This year, in collaboration with Accelerate Okanagan, the Expo will feature an exciting new focus on technologies. A section of the expo is being devoted to tech sector employers, from start-ups to larger organizations.

“We’re calling it Tech Alley,” explains Morrow. “And the goal is to really shine a light on the booming tech sector we are so fortunate to have in the Okanagan. Given the College’s focus on technologies, the fact that we’re training students for these careers, from business to computer science to engineering technologies, it’s obviously a natural fit for what we do. We hope it will benefit our students and alumni who are looking to chat with these and other employers.”

“The Okanagan’s tech industry has grown so much over the last few years and it’s only going to keep going,” says Alex Goodhew, Community Manager for Accelerate Okanagan.

“Companies are scaling their operations and expanding their team to match. Opportunities like Okanagan College’s Expo provide a much-needed connection point between local companies and talented young professionals that can help fill those seats. Our tech industry is full of so many creative, innovation-focused companies, connecting them with OC’s students just makes sense.”

Participants will spot exhibitors from industries including municipalities, wine, law enforcement, hospitality, finance, construction, technologies, retail and more.

More information about the expo is available at


OC alum makes national honour roll for Common Final Exam
Okanagan College Media Release


Donald Brouwer Jan 2020After 150 hours of studying, Donald Brouwer walked out of his Common Final Examination (CFE) with a sigh of relief. Little did the Okanagan College alum know that just a few months later his name would be listed on the national honour roll, meaning his mark earned him a spot in the top one per cent of successful CFE writers in Canada. Announced in early January, Chartered Professional Accountants Canada shared on their website the 77 writers who earned the honour roll mention, Brouwer being one of nine from British Columbia.

“My first reaction was disbelief,” says Brouwer. “I wasn’t expecting to be on the honour roll, and was shaking with happiness. I texted my girlfriend and family as soon as I could to tell them.”

Graduating from Okanagan College's School of Business (OSB) in 2017 with his BBA in accounting, Brouwer spent a large portion of his 2019 summer studying, often up to six hours a day. Currently a senior accountant at Grant Thornton, he has his sights set on being a partner one day. From his perspective, starting in co-op in his second year at the College with Grant Thornton was invaluable to his career now.  

“We are incredibly proud of Donald and the hard work he put in studying, preparing and writing his CFE,” says OSB Associate Dean Barry McGillivray. “To be mentioned on the national honour roll is a big accomplishment and it’s very impressive within the accounting and finance community.”

For what lies ahead, Brouwer is appreciative of his role in a problem-solving atmosphere and loves the ability to help business owners on a tangible level. His advice for those who want to write the CFE and pursue a career in accounting:

“Pick a good study partner and try to secure a co-op. Co-ops are a great way to figure out if accounting is for you, and study partners give feedback, and you can review cases with them.”

The CFE exam is written over three days in early September, formatted as a 13-hour case study. It is written simultaneously across the country by students wanting to further their accreditation in accounting and level up for future opportunities. It’s considered the standard exam to pass in order to become a Chartered Professional Accountant (CPA) in Canada, along with education and work experience.


New OC grad proud of setting an example for her children
Okanagan College Media Release


It was being a role model for her children that motivated Katie Reynders to return to school as a mature student. She wanted to show them it’s never too late to follow your dreams.Katie Reynders Jan 2020

“There were days I wanted to give up, but I knew I had two little people not only counting on me, but looking up to me,” says Reynders.

“I think it’s really important that they got to see me go back to school while also raising them. As parents we constantly question if what we are doing is good for our kids and there was a lot of guilt when I wasn’t able to do the fun things that I wanted to do with them because of homework or exams. At the end of the day I think that when they look back, they will be really proud of what I did and about the example I set for them.”

On Saturday, Reynders will be one of about 600 students from Arts, Business, Science, Engineering Technologies, Computer Science, Culinary Arts and Health and Social Development programs to receive their credentials.

Reynders will give the student address during the first ceremony.

“I want to encourage everyone that we all need to keep trying to better ourselves,” she says. “We may have finished our programs but we need to continue to look for ways to grow and to keep learning.”

Reynders decided to return to school after almost 20 years and enrolled in the two-year Water Engineering Technology Diploma program at Okanagan College. Without any family in the Okanagan, Reynders wasn’t sure how she would manage both school and parenting.

“I am very fortunate to have a great community of friends who stepped up and offered help and support to me and my kids,” says Reynders. “I also really valued the support from our instructors. They knew our struggles and challenges in school and outside of school and they were able to support us and ensure our success in the program. This was really important to me as single mother. Sometimes there would be scheduling conflicts and they were very understanding and would try their best to accommodate in times we needed it.”

“I am really proud to have gotten through it successfully and to be able to show my children that it’s never too late to go back to school and better yourself or prepare for your future.”

Reynders is currently a casual employee with the City of West Kelowna and hopes to continue to build her career there.

“I did both my work terms with them and it’s a really great team. I am very fortunate to be able to still work with them often and to have developed some really great friendships and industry connections.”

“This will be the first graduating class of the new decade and we look forward to witness the way in which they’ll contribute to their communities now and in the years to come,” says Okanagan College President Jim Hamilton. “These are the students that will go on to invent new technologies, start new businesses and meet the skills gaps facing our region and the province. Congratulations to all our graduands.”

Winter convocation is the first of the College’s eight convocation ceremonies that will take place this year. Students from all four of the College’s campuses will cross the stage receiving 66 bachelor’s degrees, 57 associate degrees, 307 diplomas and 172 certificates.

The morning ceremony will begin at 10 a.m. with the second ceremony following at noon. For those unable to attend the ceremonies, both will be streamed live on the College’s Facebook page.


OC Physics and Astronomy professor discusses what life is like in Penticton (on Mars)
Okanagan College Q&A


Ryan Ransom is a professor in the Physics and Astronomy Department at Okanagan College in Penticton. We asked him a few questions about the Penticton crater on Mars, and in general, how a day in the life in the crater would compare to life in its namesake of Penticton, B.C.
Ryan Ransom 2
Q. What are you teaching this term?

A. In the winter semester, I teach the second parts of the first-year physics and astronomy courses in Penticton, and a second-year course called "History of the Universe" in Kelowna. In the fall semester, I teach a second-year course on Astrobiology in Kelowna.

Q. News reports have said that winter on the Penticton crater on Mars is pretty harsh. Would this be colder or warmer than what we experience?

A. The temperature on Mars ranges from about -130 degrees Celsius on a winter night to about +20 degrees Celsius on a summer day. So, it’s certainly fair to say that a Martian winter is harsh. The temperature only tells part of the story, though. Mars' atmosphere is ~100 times thinner than Earth's. Even at +20 degrees Celsius, there is very little heat energy in Mars' atmosphere.

Q. What does that mean from an astrophysical perspective?

A. In a broader context, we could say that Mars is just outside the Solar System's "habitable zone"; i.e., the region in a planetary system where the average temperature at the surface of a planet/moon is just right for liquid water (and thus life).

Q. Seasonal ice makes it sound like there’s water on Mars, which is critical for lifeforms here on Earth. Any chance it’s the same kind of water?

A. The seasonal ice shown in this particular image (below) is carbon dioxide ice (sometimes called "dry ice"), which at Mars' atmospheric pressure indicates that temperatures in the shaded regions of the crater are less than -110 degrees Celsius. There is also water ice on Mars. The water ice will melt in the sunlight on a summer day, but the liquid evaporates quickly under Mars' thin atmosphere. There's no life (or any organic molecules) on the surface of present-day Mars. Interestingly, Mars had a thicker atmosphere in the distant past, and there's excellent evidence that liquid water pooled and flowed on the Martian surface in the past. If there are still pools of liquid water under the surface, it is possible that these pools host life. The current lander mission, InSight, is probing the temperature a few meters under the surface.

Q. How do planetary craters get their name?

A. Great question. I can say, looking at the record, that the Penticton crater was named by the International Astronomical Union in 2008. In reading through Castanet's earlier article (Sep 5, 2019), it seems the crater received its name because the city is affected by landslides. I reached out to my colleague JJ Kavelaars, a planetary scientist at NRC-DAO (which is DRAO's 'sister' institution in Victoria), for a little more insight.

Q. Have you been to the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory in Penticton?

A. The Dominion Radio Astrophysical Observatory (DRAO) is why I moved with my family to Penticton from Toronto. I had a postdoctoral position at DRAO in 2007-08, and still have a 'visiting scientist' position at DRAO.

Q. Could we see the Penticton crater on Mars, from Penticton?

A. The Penticton crater on Mars is just ~8 km across. The crater is unresolved to even our largest Earth-based telescopes. This speaks to the importance of space-based missions. We learn a great deal more about Solar System objects when we get a close-up view. Mars has had 25 successful spacecraft visits, including 4 fly-bys, 12 orbiters, 5 landers, and 4 rovers.

Q. Any chance Martians are as cold as we are here in the Okanagan?
A. On Earth, we'd call them extremophiles – lifeforms that love the extremes.
Photo credit: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona

mars penticton


Future caregivers given boost by Central Okanagan Foundation
Okanagan College Media Release


An organization that helps to inspire and facilitate a great deal of philanthropy in the Okanagan is supporting future caregivers by donating to the new Health Sciences Centre currently being built at Okanagan College’s Kelowna campus.HCA Jan 2020

The Central Okanagan Foundation is donating $28,000 from the Kelowna Home Support Society Fund towards the construction of the new Centre, which will educate Health Care Assistants, Nurses and Therapist Assistants, among other professions.

Marliss Magas sat on the board of Kelowna Home Support Society that created the fund in 1988 and managed it until the society closed in 1999. She praises the strong financial management of the non-profit society that allowed it to leave a legacy to the community. The surplus funds, which are held by the Central Okanagan Foundation, have been providing bursaries to students in the College’s Health Care Assistant program for a number of years. The new Health Sciences Centre was an opportunity to deepen their commitment to educating future caregivers.

“The new Health Sciences Centre is a great opportunity to recognize the values of Kelowna Home Support and support a community institution that teaches the values of caring and helping people stay at home as they age,” says Magas.

“We see community care becoming increasingly asked for, and we’re excited to have a new Centre that can raise the profile of meaningful careers in this area.”

The new Health Sciences Centre will feature a new Home Care Lab that will give students an opportunity to practise supporting someone in a home environment, something that is not currently available for students at the College.

“We are thankful to these two community organizations for investing in the future of health care for our community,” says Maxine DeHart, Okanagan College Foundation Community Ambassador and Kelowna City Councillor.

“We all deserve excellent health care, and this gift will make sure we can provide the best care for seniors who want to age at home.”

The new Health Sciences Centre replaces the College’s current health building, which dates back to the 1963 and no longer reflects the quality of education Okanagan College is renowned for. The B.C. government is funding $15. 4 million towards the new $18.9-million Centre.

The Okanagan College Foundation’s Our Students, Your Health campaign has a fundraising goal of $5 million to complete the building, purchase equipment and provide bursaries and scholarships to students entering high-demand health care careers. To learn more or to donate visit


Okanagan College students and staff coordinate exhibit, awareness activities for Sexual Assault Awareness Month
Okanagan College Media Release


January is Sexual Assault Awareness Month and Okanagan College students and staff are hosting a number of activities and initiatives to continue to raise awareness, open dialogue, support survivors and help prevent sexual violence on campus and in the community.

One of the projects, an exhibit called What Were You Wearing, brings to OC a popular exhibit that has been recreated at post-secondary institutions across North America since it debuted in the U.S. seven years ago.

From Jan. 13-15 at the Vernon campus and again in Kelowna from Jan. 21-22, OC students and staff will be presenting the exhibit, which is modeled after an installation first organized by Jen Brockman and Dr. Mary Wyandt-Hiebert of the University of Arkansas in 2013.

The installation was born out of a research and advocacy lens, when Brockman and Wyand-Hiebert noted that the question, “what were you wearing?” was pervasive for most survivors of sexual violence. It depicts various items of clothing in a gallery style walk-through, inviting participants to consider an important and insidious question that continues years later, well into the post #metoo and #timesup era.

Wyandt-Hiebert and Brockman set out to create a project that would place the work of bearing witness to this question’s answer back on the shoulders of the community and humanize the survivor in the answer. The installation asks participants to understand that it was never about the clothing a survivor was wearing, and that the act of shedding those clothes is never enough to bring peace or comfort to survivors.

“We hope this exhibit will generate discussion, bring students and staff together to think about and challenge their own ways of thinking where it pertains to consent culture, victim shaming and sexual violence,” explains Beth Triano, a Counsellor at the Vernon Campus and one of the exhibit organizers.

In addition to the exhibit, there will also be a number of educational events throughout the month to raise awareness and continue to foster a consent culture on campus.

“Building consent culture on campus and continuing to raise awareness is something we’re very focused on throughout the year, but particularly during this important month that sometimes flies under the radar for people,” explains Brianne Berchowitz, Executive Director of the OCSU.

“Okanagan College is committed to fostering supportive campuses which promote assistance, intervention and consent,” explains Jane Lister, Regional Dean for the North Okanagan and a member of the College’s Sexual Violence task force.

“As part of the College’s ongoing commitment to working with the Okanagan College Students’ Union (OCSU) and Vernon Students' Association - Okanagan College (VSAOC) to support consent culture on campus, there will be a number of activities throughout the month and into February and students should keep an eye on the website to learn more about what’s happening on their campus.”

To read the College’s sexual violence policy, learn more about the activities being coordinated by OC students and staff for SAAM, visit

On Jan. 5, to coincide with the start of the new semester at post-secondary institutions across the province, the Ministry of Advanced Education Skills and Training launched a renewed awareness campaign to help keep students safe from sexual violence. More information is available in the media release from the Ministry and on


OC Speaker Series returns with a focus on the environment
Okanagan College Media Release


A lineup of experts and authorities will offer free presentations, touching on a range of topics like history and astronomy to appeal to everyone. But a running theme through the majority of sessions will be climate change, including things everyday people can do to help the environment.

“Youth-led protests last fall and the fires in Australia and the Amazon have amplified conversations about climate change and human impacts on the environment,” says Eric Corneau, Regional Dean South Okanagan Similkameen. “The OC Speaker Series will be exploring the practical and political aspects of climate change. We invite the community to take part in continuing the dialogue.”

The series includes:

  • Jan. 14 – A Personal Reflection on the Situation in Hong Kong
  • Jan. 21 – ‘The Man from Eldorado’ Presents an Evening with Robert W. Service, by Andre Begin
  • Jan. 28 – Invasive Species and Climate Change, by Lisa Scott from OASISS
  • Feb. 4 – Bridging the Gap: The Bad News and the Good News about Climate Change, by First Things First’s Dr. Michael Healey and Jim Beattie
  • Feb. 11 – Climate Change in the Okanagan: Crisis or Opportunity? By Tami Rothery
  • Feb. 25 – Love Food, Hate Waste: Are You Using Your Refrigerator Right?, by Cameron Baughen from the Regional District Okanagan Similkameen
  • March 3 – Air Quality and Child Development, by Jason Curran
  • March 10 – Role of Magnetism in Star Formation, by Dr. Mehrnoosh Tahani from the Dominion Radio Astrophysical Observatory
  • March 17 – The Spiral Structure of the Milky Way, by Dr. Trey V. Wenger from the Dominion Radio Astrophysical Observatory
  • March 24 – Climate Change Diet, by Dr. Todd Redding
  • April 1 – The Politics of Oil, by Dr. Rosalind Warner
  • April 7 – Mindful Self-Compassion, by Barb Regasz

Talks are 7 to 8:30 p.m. in the Lecture Theatre (PL 107) of the Ashnola Building. The Okanagan College Penticton campus is located at 583 Duncan Ave. Admission is by donation, with proceeds going to support students in need.

Event information is available at


OC Business students ready to bring their best at International case competition
Okanagan College Media Release


Although it may be their first time competing together, a pair of business students and up-and-coming HR professionals at Okanagan College have their sights set on bringing home the hardware at a prestigious international case competition.

The College’s School of Business will send three teams to compete in the 2020 Inter-Collegiate Business Competition (I.C.B.C.). at Queen’s University next week.Liv and Madi Jan 2020

One of those teams is the HR duo of Madison Freisen and Alivia Leibbrand, coached by OC Business Professor Roger Wheeler.

“We’re looking forward to the pressure of competing and to speaking in front of such an esteemed panel of industry leaders. If we pull out all the stops and deliver a great presentation, hopefully we’ll find ourselves standing on the podium at the end of the weekend,” said Leibbrand, who is currently completing her Bachelor of Business Administration degree at the Kelowna campus.

Takiya Bradshaw and Matthew Davidson make up the Accounting team. They will be coached by Adrian Fontenla and Mary Ann Knoll.

Braeden Rahn and Justin Rantucci form the Debate team, coached by Devin Rubadeau.

They follow in the footsteps of Mitchell Folk and Derek Monsen, last year’s OC debate dynamic duo (also coached by Rubadeau) who notched a second-place showing in what was the first ever appearance by an OC debate team at I.C.B.C. Also on the podium last year were Rowan Nevard and Mark Fellhauer (coached by Adrian Fontenla & Mary Ann Knoll) took first place in Accounting, along with Ryan Buchanan and Jason Greaves (coached by Dr. Barry McGillivray) who took second place in Ethics.

I.C.B.C, held this year from Jan. 16-18, is Canada’s largest, oldest, and most esteemed undergraduate case competition.

Okanagan College boasts a strong track record in the annual event.

“The results over the years have demonstrated consistently that students from the Okanagan School of Business can compete with those from the very top business schools across the country and around world,” notes Dr. Barry McGillivray, Associate Dean. “Our students receive a first-class – and indeed world-class – business education at Okanagan College and competitions like these help to illustrate just how prepared our graduates are to make an impact in their chosen fields.”

For more than 42 years, the top business schools from across Canada and across the world have attended the competition held over two days at Queen’s. This year there were over 120 teams in the qualifying round that competed to attend the event. The top six in each category were chosen to attend and present to a panel of expert and corporate executives who will choose the top three teams.

Full results will be posted to the College’s news blog following the competition. More information about I.C.B.C. is available at


OC Culinary Arts debuts Indigenous-inspired feature menu for Dine Around
Okanagan College Media Release


Dine Around 1 2020

Infusions Restaurant at Okanagan College will once again be a can’t miss stop for anyone looking to sip, savour and save as part of Dine Around Thompson Okanagan this month.

OC Chefs-in-training and chef instructors have designed a menu that not only showcases Okanagan ingredients but also incorporates aspects of traditional Syilx-Okanagan culinary knowledge and practices.

“This year we’ve added a selection of Indigenous fare, along with other daily features, to provide a culinary experience that is truly unique to the region,” explains Culinary instructor Chef Brian Alexander.

“Dine Around is a fantastic learning and teaching opportunity as it gives students a chance to get creative and expand their knowledge. In this case, one of the ways they will be doing that is delving into Indigenous knowledge, practices and ingredients.”

Diners can select from a two-course menu for $25 or a three-course menu for $35. This year’s menu features a number of vegan (VG) and gluten-free (GF) options as well as suggested local VQA wine pairings.

Appetizers include a choice of garden beet salad with goat cheese, winter spiced squash soup (VG) and smoked salmon bruschetta. Main course features include braised short rib (GF), hunter chicken, cedar plank wild salmon and quinoa napoleon stack (VG) for their main course, with the choice of a flourless chocolate cake or coconut posset (VG) for dessert.

Infusions is open for dinner Tuesday-Friday from 5:30 – 8 p.m. The feature menu will be offered from Jan. 15-31.

Reservations are recommended. Visit to check out the menu or make a reservation through the OpenTable feature on the site.

Dine Around 2 2020

Also new for this year, Infusions diners will have a unique chance to meet the chefs as OC Culinary students will play a role in serving the meal during Dine Around.

“Students are very hands on with every aspect of Dine Around this year, from the creation of the menu to serving the food and interacting with guests,” explains Alexander.

“It’s a great opportunity for them to see how their creativity needs to really shine during a month like January, which is always a challenging one for the restaurant industry as a whole. Events like Dine Around provide a way for chefs to challenge themselves to try something new and find ways to draw people in, and that’s a very important and practical lesson for a new chef.”

Dine Around Thompson Okanagan will officially kick off with a Launch Party at Okanagan College on Tuesday, January 14 (that event has now sold out). More information about Dine Around and participating restaurants is available at  

Earlier this year, Okanagan College launched its first ever Indigenous knowledge-infused Culinary Arts intake, engaging Indigenous chefs from across the region, alumni and elders.

Those looking to launch a career as a professional cook can learn more about the Culinary Arts program at Okanagan College at an upcoming info session.

From 5-7 p.m., on Wednesday, Jan. 15 future chefs can tour OC’s Culinary Arts facilities and chat with instructors at the Kelowna campus at 1000 KLO Rd. More information is available at


Indigenous students receive award in support of their studies
Okanagan College Media Release


Sophie Wilson knows the path to her further education and future has just been made easier.Sophie Wilson Dec 2019

She is one of 16 students from Okanagan College who received an Indigenous Student Award from the Irving K. Barber BC Scholarship Society in December.

Wilson is a Bachelor of Arts student at the Penticton campus who is transferring into the Bachelor of Business Administration program in the new year, majoring in Management.

“This award validates and recognizes all my hard work,” says Wilson. “It means I can support myself and my daughter while I continue to pursue my dreams at Okanagan College. One of the biggest things being a single mother is I always need something for my daughter, and I don’t ever want to worry about not having what she needs.”

The Society offers $1,000 – $2,500 awards to Indigenous students pursuing post-secondary education in B.C. Wilson received $2,500.

“In the past I have worked anytime I could to help with expenses but I got sidetracked with work and couldn’t focus fully on my studies to give 100 per cent,” she adds.

“My overall goal is to be an active, successful student at school. I can’t do that effectively while working and being a single parent. This award means I don’t have to worry about working right now.”

The 16 OC students are among 612 Indigenous students in B.C. to receive more than $1.8 million in awards from the Society.

“Ike Barber, and the Society that lives on in his name, have had an immense impact on our students over the years, through awards such as these,” says OC President Jim Hamilton, who is also a former director of the society. “Support such as this not only inspires our students in their studies but hopefully also to contribute to their communities through their knowledge and skills.”

The Society’s Indigenous Student Awards program was created to assist in removing barriers to higher education for Indigenous peoples.

“Many Aboriginal students feel it is very overwhelming to be at a higher education institution as there has been racism and discrimination,” says Wilson. “My grandmother and mother suffered this at the universities they attended. I appreciate the work done by Okanagan College that has made it more comfortable and safer for Aboriginal students. I am proud that I can work to my abilities and have a fair chance at success at what I choose to do with my life.”

“I also appreciate that as an Okanagan person, I can go to school in my home community on my own Territory. This means I don’t have to leave my support system which means my daughter and I have help and encouragement when we need it. This is something that others suffer from when they must go away to school. I have also been able to be a role model to others in my community by supporting others who wish to pursue their education.”

Wilson is one of more than 1,800 Indigenous students who attend Okanagan College.

A full list of the 2019 Indigenous Student Award recipients can be found here.


OC alumna sets up full tuition nursing scholarship
Okanagan College Media Release


An Okanagan College alumna is offering a student entering the Practical Nursing Diploma program at Okanagan College an opportunity to have their education costs paid for.

Sharon McKenna Dec 2019Sharon McKenna is setting up an annual scholarship that will pay the full, two-year tuition costs to become a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN). The total value of the award is more than $12,000.

As a retired Registered Nurse, McKenna knows becoming a nurse can be a life-changing experience. The career is not only meaningful it also offers a good salary and benefits.

“If tuition and student fees are taken care of, a student's chances of success are so much greater,” says McKenna, adding she hopes the award will benefit single parents.

“If we can get people who are struggling financially into this program where they can get a good job and benefits, that not only changes their future and their family's future but it benefits our society too.”

McKenna’s gift is in support of the Okanagan College Foundation Our Students, Your Health campaign, which aims to raise $5 million to build a modern Health Sciences Centre in Kelowna and support health care students.

“Sharon’s generosity is going to make an incredible impact,” says Helen Jackman, Okanagan College Foundation Executive Director.

“An investment in a nursing student is an investment not only in their future, but in the future health and well-being of our community. For those of us thinking of giving at this time of year, giving to health care students creates a ripple effect across our region.”

McKenna is naming the scholarship in honour of Marcia Aitkens, a founding member of the Okanagan Vocational School, a precursor to Okanagan College. Aitkens was instrumental in starting the Practical Nursing program, paving the way for other health programs to be established.

McKenna describes herself as one of the many beneficiaries of Aitkens’ vision, having been accepted into the first class of Diploma Nursing (RN) students at Okanagan College in 1976. She later went on to get her Masters and PhD and work locally as well as in the United States.


“Everything I learned in nursing started with the foundation taught at Okanagan College,” says McKenna.

“Those were the best days of my life, I loved every minute of my time at OC.”

McKenna’s fond memories have also inspired her to leave a gift to the College in her estate.

McKenna says she hopes her gift will ensure Okanagan College continues to foster a sense of excellence in its students while meeting community needs.

“You can’t expand or keep good ideas going unless you have funding,” she says. “There are so many people in this community who have been shaped by OC, I hope my gift honours this legacy.”

To learn more or donate to the Our Students, Your Health campaign, click here.


College Culinary students prep for charity

Okanagan College Media

Mona Liza SablayFirst year Okanagan College Culinary Arts students are spending their last week of school giving back to the community.

OC Culinary Instructor Mike Barillaro and Culinary Arts students were busy prepping turkeys, stuffing and gravy this week that will feed over 450 people at an upcoming holiday dinner at Parkinson Rec Centre in Kelowna.

This year marks the 16th annual Christmas Day dinner hosted by Victory Life Fellowship at the Rec Centre.

“We’ve been cooking for this event for about five years now,” says Barillaro. “It’s a great opportunity for the students to give back to the community. It’s a fun way to close out the year and it’s nice knowing that we are bringing this holiday meal to those who might not have had one otherwise.”

The students were eager to participate and proud to be a part of a giving back initiative.

“I’ve never cooked a turkey dinner before this so I’m definitely learning something new,” says Mona Liza Sablay. “It’s very nice to help people when you’re able to. It can be something very simple and it will mean a lot to them. Something as simple as putting a smile on someone’s face, or food in their belly, can be more meaningful than something materialistic.”

The dinner is open to everyone with the belief that no one should be alone on Christmas. Those attending will be treated to a full turkey dinner with all the trimmings, dessert, gift bags, door prizes, games and live entertainment. The event starts at 5 p.m. on Dec. 25.

Prepping the turkey dinner marked the last time these students will be in the kitchen before the holidays.

The next intake of future chefs is in February 2020. There are still a few spots left and prospective students are invited to an Open House on Wed, Jan. 15 from 5 – 7 p.m. in the Lab Kitchen of the Culinary Arts building (F) at the Kelowna campus to learn more. 

You can view more photos of the students prepping for the dinner here.

For more information about Culinary Arts, visit and for more information on the Christmas Day dinner, visit


Communications student reaches for the moon with first self-published book
Okanagan College Media Release


Juliana Troll Trujillo Dec 2019A sacred appreciation for the exchange of knowledge, whether between friends or strangers, is a central theme in Juliana Troll Trujillo’s life. So, after moving to Canada from Brazil last Christmas, it was only natural for her to acknowledge the moments that led her to write her first book, Helio meets Luna – Luna meets Helio.

Troll Trujillo is a first-year student studying Advanced Communications at Okanagan College’s Kelowna campus, and she is no stranger to education. With a bachelor’s degree from Brazil in medical physics and years of working in the Waldorf school system, she knows the value of learning.

Her decision to write Helio meets Luna – Luna meets Helio came from a moment of inspiration, driving her two daughters home after a long day.

“They were tired and started to scream in the car and I knew I had to do something to calm them down,” she says. “I saw the sun setting, so I thought I’d tell a story about the sun and the moon. After that, I had the whole story written down within a week and started on the illustrations.”

Then, in her Advanced Communication Issues class this fall, she was tasked with completing a coaching project. Designed for two people to coach each other in something they desire to change in their lives, whether that be writing a book or learning a new workout regime, Troll Trujillo knew this was her chance to take her idea from dream to reality.

Her book focuses on the meeting of two characters, Helio representing the sun and Luna representing the moon. Through an interactive and colourful display of art and poetry, it’s an accomplishment worth celebrating.

Troll Trujillo describes the moment her family first touched down in Canada, on Christmas Day of 2018:

“We arrived and it was magical. My daughters were filled with so much wonder, especially with the snow.”

Troll Trujillo has always been a consistent creative, participating in hand-craft instruction in community centres in Brazil, and now an active participant in her children’s own education. After completing her first bachelor’s degree, she had a curiosity for physical processes and how they tied into creativity. Fast forward through part of a music production diploma, time spent in video production and Troll Trujillo found herself as an administrative assistant in a Waldorf school.

“I discovered myself there, and realized it was the kind of education I wanted for my kids,” she says.

The book then created an opportunity for her to connect her personal mosaic of education, motherhood and creativity. Having lived through a variety of careers, and moving countries, Troll Trujillo says it’s worth the time to notice the moments that build to something greater.Juliana Troll Trujillo 2 Dec 2019

“If we hadn’t moved to Canada, I wouldn’t have taken this course and wouldn’t have published my book.”

The colour-filled pages give subtle nods to her educational values, with characters and scenes drawn with soft watercolours. The landscape and characters without facial expressions encourage readers to insert their own emotion into the story, following along as the characters meet in the middle of the book.

Her professor, Marc Arellano notes that the end goal of the class project wasn’t necessarily even to finish the project but instead to learn practices of coaching and mentoring. For Juliana, the finished book came as an added bonus.

“By working on coaching competencies and best practices, the students learn to communicate openly and honestly, which is no easy task,” he says. “In Juliana’s case, she treated the course material with respect and integrity. She was quite ambitious in producing all the content, narrative and illustrations.”

Troll Trujillo dreams of hosting read-aloud story times at local libraries, and also hopes to sell copies of her book so others can read the meaningful story of Helio and Luna.

“This project has shown me what is possible to do as a student, and is something that the College has allowed me to do,” she says, “I hope other students can go out for their dreams and do what they wish to do. It’s possible when we decide simply to start.”

You can purchase Helio meets Luna – Luna meets Helio here.


21,000 steps for Rumi: a father’s love for his son, and a run for a cure
Okanagan College Media Release


Okanagan College professor and community raising awareness and support for children battling a rare genetic disorder

“He’s just a little boy with a big, beautiful soul. Curly. Joyful. The easiest kid you could possibly imagine. He loves the colour blue, and his hotdogs. Light as a feather. Braver than me.”

Gill Green and Rumi Dec 2019These are the words Gill Green uses to describe his two-year old son, Rumi, who was recently diagnosed with Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA).

Green is a professor of Geography at Okanagan College in Kelowna. On Friday, Sept. 13, after months of mysterious symptoms and scores of tests, Rumi was diagnosed with the rare genetic disorder at B.C. Children’s Hospital.

“The diagnosis brought a combination of shock and grief,” says Green. “It began with us not knowing what the disease was, to hours and hours of research late at night, to wondering if he would live and for how long, and ultimately what his quality of life would be like.”

The symptoms and progression of SMA can be devastating.

“We learned quickly that SMA leads to progressive loss of ability to move and breathe and often to the end of life. It is the number one genetic cause of death for infants and yet it is rare. There are less than 30 people diagnosed with it in British Columbia, in a population of five million.”

Rumi, who was named for the 13th-century Persian poet, seemed perfectly healthy at birth. It wasn’t until about six months ago, when he reached 18 months old, that Green and his wife Claire first became aware something was amiss.

“We had friends over for dinner,” explains Green. “One was a fellow OC Geography professor and the other a child development specialist. She noticed Rumi wasn’t walking quite right. Not long after, we saw a pediatrician, followed by a number of specialists and eventually a neurologist and the entire neuromuscular team at BC Children’s Hospital. Eventually, via genetic testing, we found out it was Spinal Muscular Atrophy.”

SMA is a motor neuron disease. The motor neurons affect the voluntary muscles that are used for activities such as crawling, walking, head and neck control, swallowing, and breathing.

There are four types, which range in symptoms and severity. Rumi was diagnosed with Type II. 

“Many who receive this diagnosis may never walk,” says Green. “They may not live past their early 20s. They may lose the ability to breathe in early adulthood.”

May being the key word, he notes. Hope exists for Rumi and other SMA sufferers in the form of new gene therapy drugs.Rumi Green Dec 2019

Thanks to quick work by the family’s neurologist Dr. Kathryn Selby, the Greens have already attained special coverage from the province and Biogen for Rumi to receive for a year a drug called Spinraza (nusinersen), one of the first gene therapies approved for SMA. Without the coverage, the drug costs about $120,000 per injection.

“Spinraza is delivered through a lumbar puncture (spinal tap),” explains Green. “When SMA children start Spinraza treatment, they have to do four loading doses – one spinal tap every two weeks. By January, Rumi’s frequency of dosing will go to once every four months.”

Recently, Green launched a Facebook page to track his son’s treatment journey and to help raise funds for SMA research. The page, like the boy who inspired it, is a story of lightness, joy and bravery.

A video posted on Nov. 18, just a few days after Rumi received his second spinal tap, shows a happy little boy singing to the birds while his father pushes him in his stroller down a quiet street.

Now, Green is taking more steps to help Rumi and others in the fight against SMA. 21,000 steps, to be precise.

He signed up to run the New York City Half Marathon next March and set a fundraising goal of $2,100 USD, or roughly a dime per step. To his surprise, support from family and friends, and his colleagues at Okanagan College, helped him surpass that goal within a few days of posting it here. He’s now raised more than $4,400.

“We were blown away by the outpouring of generosity,” says Green. “People at the College and so many others in our lives have been incredibly supportive. It’s given us a lot of hope and positivity.”

One of the people lending support in a powerful way is Green’s friend, OC colleague and former officemate Dr. Shelly Ikebuchi, a professor in the Sociology department.

Ikebuchi does pottery in her spare time and recently took to making ring dishes emblazoned with quotes by a particular poet – Rumi.

Shelley Ikebuchi Dec 2019

“It was one of those weird coincidences,” says Ikebuchi. “I’ve used quotes by Rumi for a while. When I learned what Gill’s Rumi was facing, I knew I wanted to make a gift. After I donated, I thought, ‘What can I do to raise more awareness, if not a little more money?’”

Ikebuchi continues to sell her Rumi-inspired ring dishes for $5 each, donating all proceeds to Green’s run fundraiser.

“I hope the community will support what Gill is doing to raise awareness and funds to find a cure for SMA, and help other families who are going through what they are going through.”

After meeting his original fundraising total, Green is now hoping others will be inspired to give.

“Anyone wanting to support what I’m doing, to support families in our situation, can donate directly to CureSMA Canada so that BC families directly benefit,” says Green.

And while he hopes Rumi’s story will inspire others to support SMA research, Green is also hoping his run and the Facebook page will spark greater awareness.

“My goal is to make sure that people know that this genetic disease exists,” he says. “And from then on, hopefully we can build momentum so that access to medicine and prenatal and newborn screening in B.C. will match other regions across Canada and North America. Anyone looking for more information about what our journey has been like, and the struggles facing SMA families in B.C., can check out the Facebook page and follow along.

“I want to thank everyone who has given or sent us their messages of hope, especially the College as an institution and community – it means the world to us.”


Education Assistant training supports diverse learners
Okanagan College Media Release


Every day she walks into the classroom at Columbia Park Elementary, Åsa Kenyon is looking for ways to support students with diverse learning needs.Asa Kenyon Dec 2019

“My job is to find the strength in each individual I work with. I work as a key part of a team to strive towards success for all students in the classroom,” says Kenyon.

Kenyon is a graduate of the Education Assistant Certificate program at Okanagan College. “I took the program because I enjoy working with children and youth. The training offered me an opportunity for work I find both meaningful and rewarding,” says Kenyon.

Education assistants have an important role in the successful education and inclusion of students with diverse learning needs. They work in elementary and secondary school systems, as well as other community organizations.

It is an in-demand skill with job opportunities across the province. Recent labour market data predicts there will be need for nearly 6,000 new education assistants and early childhood educators in B.C. over the next eight years.

Graduates of the education assistant program at Okanagan College have high levels of employment in their field, with 97-per-cent working in the labour force according to the statistics from the Ministry of Advanced Education, Skills and Training. 

“We know that providing education for children and youth with diverse learning needs is integral to the overall wellbeing of the community,” says Dennis Silvestrone, Director of Continuing Studies and Corporate Training at Okanagan College. “This program will offer training opportunities for education assistants at the Revelstoke campus. It is a key step in building this critical skill within the community.”

The program is offered in a part-time format and is eligible for student grants. “The part-time nature of the training worked for my schedule as a working parent, as did the practicum component,” says Kenyon.

The Education Assistant certificate training program will be offered at the Revelstoke Centre of Okanagan College and begins in January.


DeHart joins College fundraising campaign
Okanagan College Media Release


Kelowna City Councillor Maxine DeHart is adding her name to new campaign to improve health care in the Okanagan.

DeHart is the Campaign Ambassador for the Okanagan College Foundation’s Our Students, Your Health Campaign, which aims to raise $5 million to build a modern Health Sciences Centre that will educate future health care professionals for the Okanagan and beyond.

Maxine Dehart Dec 2019DeHart will be featured in a 30-second commercial and radio ads talking about the campaign.

“Our health is the most important thing, it’s all we have. I joined this campaign to raise awareness of the amazing impact Okanagan College grads have on our health-care system,” says DeHart.

“I can't express enough that these people coming out of that Centre will be helping you for the rest of your life nor matter who you are and what age you are. We should all open our hearts and give what we can.”

The College has graduated more than 11,000 health-care professionals since its current building opened in 1963. While the College stands by the quality of its education, it needs a new building to reflect advances in health care, ensuring students are educated on the latest technology and in spaces that match typical health-care settings.

“Maxine is a champion for community, and we’re delighted she’s helping us raise awareness of this important campaign,” says Helen Jackman, Okanagan College Foundation Executive Director.

“Our graduates have an immense impact on the local health-care system. We entrust them with the quality of life, the recovery, the wellness of our community, and that doesn’t just refer to our neighbours or our co-workers or people we don’t know. They care for our loved ones, our families, the people nearest and dearest to us. So we hope people will hear the messages that Max and others are sharing, and will be inspired to give and help us make this project a reality.”

The B.C. government is funding $15.4 million of the $18.9 million Centre. The Okanagan College Foundation is fundraising $3.5 million to complete the building and $1.5 million for scholarships and bursaries for students entering high-demand health care careers.

To learn more or to donate, visit


Roche uncorks Rosé course at OC
Okanagan College Media Release

Looking to give the gift of wine tasting, or brush up on your wine knowledge before the holidays? A renowned Okanagan wine maker and educator will be delivering an educational tasting session all about Rosé at the College’s Penticton campus next month.Penelope Roche Dec 2019

Penelope Roche, co-owner and proprietor of Roche Wines, will present the course Rosé Styles: BC & Around the World on Thursday, Dec. 12. The tasting session runs from 7 – 9 p.m. in the B.C. Wine Information Society Sensory Centre in the Centre of Excellence.

“This is a chance to explore how incredibly different one Rosé can be from the next. We might contrast an Okanagan Rosé with a French Rosé for example, and how climate and many other factors produce such profound differences in the taste of the wines,” says Roche. “We’ll taste seven or eight wines over the course of the night, comparing the styles and learning a little bit about the winemaking processes.”

Roche and her husband Dylan, along with a dedicated team at Roche Wines, are staunchly committed to an all-natural approach in their vineyards on the southern edge of the Naramata Bench.

“We are focused on hands-on organic farming, with traditional French ‘savoir-faire’, to make exceptional wines which express unique Okanagan terroirs. We are also committed to environmental stewardship, as it’s important to us for the health of our family and ecosystem, and for the contribution it makes to the quality of our wines.”

“We have always worked with small lots, in direct contact with the vineyard, and we are acutely aware of the details that make the difference between good and exceptional wine,” notes Roche.

Winemaking runs deep in Roche’s family. She counts six generations of viticulture and winemaking at Château Les Carmes Haut-Brion in the Bordeaux region of France.

From oenology and viticulture studies in Bordeaux to winemaking in Spain, New Zealand and Australia, she brings to the Okanagan a profound and holistic understanding of the grapevine’s relationship with its environment, from a winemaker’s perspective.

Roche is also a winegrowing consultant, and teaches viticulture at Okanagan College.

The tasting session costs $78.75. Seating is limited. Register online at


Demand for Certified Energy Advisors powers success for OC alumnus
Okanagan College Media Release


For Brendon Gray, the Sustainable Construction Management Technology program at Okanagan College has sparked a new career with super-charged demand.

Brendon gray SCMT Nov 2019Brendon was a journeyman electrician who worked seven years for a local company, making his way from the construction site into the office as a project coordinator. With a background in trades, he realized he understood the projects he coordinated but needed more management fundamentals at his fingertips.

As an Okanagan College alumnus, he checked out what OC had to offer and discovered the Sustainable Construction Management Technology (SCMT) Diploma program.

“It paired what I wanted to do professionally with the sustainability and green building principles that really spoke to me,” Gray said. “I knew there was going to be a big shift in the industry to focus more on sustainable practices, and I wanted to get a grasp on the new technologies on the market.”

He discovered a class of students with a wide range of backgrounds, from those who had never set foot on a construction site before to leaders in the trades industry.

“There’s some pretty heavy material and a lot of content to go through, but as a result, there’s so many different avenues that people can take after the program,” Gray said.

The full-time program has a blended delivery format, which allowed him to continue working part-time at his past employer.

“After my first year, they brought in a guest speaker who is an energy advisor in the Okanagan. He gave us a tutorial of what he does for builders, and gave us a rundown on the changes coming up for the Building Code, and how there would be a demand for energy advisors. I could see myself filling that demand,” he said.

Gray was able to be mentored that summer by an energy advisor, which enabled him to become a Certified Energy Advisor. Coupled with his Diploma in Sustainable Construction Management Technology and trades training, he is now primed to meet the needs of the building and development industry.

And those needs are about to change drastically.

The BC Energy Step Code is a provincial standard designed to help municipalities and industries step up the performance of their buildings incrementally over time, to meet the net-zero energy level that will be required by 2032. For example, new homes will have to be 20-per-cent more energy efficient by 2022, and 40-per-cent more energy efficient by 2027.

To achieve those targets, the Energy Step Code shifts building efficiency requirements away from the prescriptive approach that focused on the individual elements of the home (insulation, windows, furnaces, water heaters, etc.). Instead, the new Step Code focuses on a performance-based approach, ensuring the home works as an overall system.

That’s where Certified Energy Advisors come in. Using computerized energy modeling software, advisors evaluate the building to identify things like solar heat gains, passive cooling, insulation and mechanical systems, and how efficient the building’s envelope should be. Then the model is tested with an on-site assessment: a blower door fan is installed in the exterior door and the house is depressurized enough to imitate 33 km/h winds going through the house. The air is measured to see if the pressure is maintained, indicating good building performance, and what the sources of loss might be.

Sustainable Construction Management Technology professor Brian Rippy said that, as part of Energy Step Code compliance, municipalities like Kelowna, Penticton and Lake Country are going to require assessments written by Certified Energy Advisors as early as Dec. 1.

“Building requirements are changing significantly in the years to come with respect to energy efficiency and more. Industry and employers need people with diverse skills and knowledge in order to guide sustainable development in the near future, and the SCMT program is meeting that need,” Rippy explains. “Graduates like Brendon will be playing a leading role in the construction industry in Canada and abroad.”

Gray has started his own business delivering energy efficiency consulting services that specialize in B.C.’s Energy Step Code for part 9 buildings, EnerGuide evaluations, home energy audits, energy modelling and blower door air tightness testing.

Starting a business in a brand new field has its rewards and challenges, Gray explained. Awareness of the changes coming to the BC Building Code has been the biggest hurdle to overcome so far.

“You’re dealing with builders and homeowners who aren’t clear on the changes and what they mean for their projects. Come December, there’s going to be a big learning curve,” he said, adding that smart business owners are looking to the changes as an opportunity.

“I try to tell people it’s about transparency: if you buy a vehicle, you want to know what the gas mileage is like, which model is more energy efficient. But when people look at the biggest investment in their life, a house, there’s no clear rating system that has been in place to inform them how energy efficient it is. For builders, these energy assessments can become a great marketing tool for them to showcase just how energy efficient their homes are to buyers.”

For information on the SCMT program, visit Check out Brendon Gray’s website at or the provincial Energy Step Code website at


OC Trades students convert seacan into literacy centre
Okanagan College Media Release


Okanagan College Trades and Apprenticeship students lent their hands and tools to support a literacy project in Africa.

OC partnered with Niteo Africa Society and CLAC to convert a shipping container into a model literacy centre similar to those that are shipped to Uganda by Niteo.Trades Seacan Project Nov 2019

The Global Child Literacy Centre will be permanently located at the Evangel Church parking lot in Kelowna and will act as an education centre as well as a permanent book collection station.

“This project has been so great for us and our students,” says Teresa Kisilevich, Associate Dean of Trades and Apprenticeship. “We had carpentry students and staff build the windows, front entrance and roof. Our Women in Trades students built a book collection box, and students from School District 23’s Central School built bookshelves. As much as possible, we used recycled materials, making this a meaningful project on so many levels.”

A book drive was held on the campus at the same time, with many people donating their gently loved books to be donated to Niteo Africa.

The public is able to donate new or gently-used books at any time at the Literacy Centre’s collection box. The books must be in English language only, be age appropriate for a number of groups from toddlers to teens, and must not contain excessive violence or offensive content. Encyclopedias and magazines cannot be accepted.

“Literacy is the most basic unit of change for the world,” says Karine Veldhoen, Executive Director, Niteo. “Literate children become meaning makers, critical and creative thinkers. Literate children become change makers. We are thrilled to partner with CLAC and Okanagan College on this project. This space will enliven communities with literacy around the world.”

The grand opening of the Global Child Literacy Centre will take place this Saturday, Nov. 30 from 10 a.m. – 2p.m. in the parking lot of Evangel Church, 3261 Gordon Drive, in Kelowna. The ribbon cutting will happen at noon. The public is invited to view the converted seacan and are encouraged to bring a kids book or a toonie to help with shipping costs. Refreshments will be provided.

“We are extremely grateful and excited at the opportunity to work in close partnership with the Okanagan College Trades and Apprenticeship program and Niteo towards achieving Niteo’s humanitarian vision of facilitating literacy locally and globally to those whose needs might otherwise go unnoticed,” says Quentin Steen, B.C. Representative, CLAC.

“Their vision is one that continues to capture our attention and imagination because it embodies our CLAC values of fairness, integrity, respect and dignity for all people.”

Photos from various stages of the project can be found on the College’s Flickr gallery.


Okanagan College nursing students reflect on impact of historic overseas practicum
Okanagan College Media Release


Nursing in Thailand Nov 2019_3When Thanadol Prasertsung came to Canada from Thailand five years ago, he had no idea he would have the chance to return to his village one day to care for people as a nursing student.

In fact, at the time he didn’t envision he could become a nurse at all. But the guidance of some good teachers inspired more than just a journey home. It opened up an all new path in life for Prasertsung. It also created an opportunity for his fellow Okanagan College nursing students – one that has never been seen before in a Practical Nursing diploma program in Canada.

“I was working at an Assisted Living home as a housekeeper, when I first moved to Canada,” explains Prasertsung. “I saw a Care Aide come to take care of the elderly. It inspired me, so I started in the Health Care Assistant program at the College. Then, one of my instructors told me that she saw me as a Licenced Practical Nurse instead. From her thoughts and my thoughts, I told myself ‘I could do this, even though English is my second language. If I try hard, I can succeed and be an LPN’.”

As the semesters went by, Prasertsung couldn’t help but think about how what he was learning could benefit so many people where he grew up. It sparked the idea to travel back over a summer and volunteer in a clinic.

“I was born in northeastern province of Thailand. People were living in very poor conditions and could not access proper healthcare. I thought I could bring what I learned from the College back to my country to where I am from, because I want to make change for people in rural areas who cannot access healthcare.”

When he shared the idea with his classmates, the group began to dream even bigger.Nursing in Thailand Nov 2019_1

“One of my friends talked to my instructor. She made everything come true. She put so much effort in to make this project a reality.”

That instructor was Lisa Matthews, Chair of the LPN program at Okanagan College.

“These trips are typical in Bachelor of Science programs in university,” says Matthews. “But to our knowledge it hasn’t been done before as a practicum experience in a Practical Nursing program in Canada.”

“When the idea was born, we weren’t sure if it would be possible, nor were we even thinking of it as fitting into the curriculum, but, when we explored it further, we saw how it actually really perfectly captured the objectives of our program. From then on, we started to build the relationships we’d need to make it happen.”

Prasertsung helped with that. He connected Matthews with her counterparts in the Faculty of Nursing at Mahasarakham University in Talat, about 470 kilometres Northeast of Bangkok. She and Lisa Kraft, Associate Dean of Science, Technology and Health travelled to Thailand to build the relationship and lay the groundwork for the practicum.

From there, the next hurdle – and not a small one – was fundraising.

“Students went to extensive fundraising efforts,” notes Matthews. “There was a dinner and silent auction in Armstrong that was hugely successful. A family of one of our students hosted it. The students also did bottle drives. They pulled out all the stops to make this happen. There was also support from the College to make it a reality.”

Matthews and fellow instructor Amy Bailey secured funding from OC, including the Derek Cook Innovation Award, an award recognizing a long-time College business professor who was dedicated to opening up overseas study and teaching opportunities for OC students and faculty.

Finally, after extensive planning and fundraising, the group of nine students and two instructors departed for Thailand on Oct. 17. They spent the next two weeks at clinical sites in the villages of Khamriang and Tha-khonyang.

Nursing in Thailand Nov 2019_2“Their clinical setting was within a primary care unit (PCU), with half the day in the clinic working with drop-ins. In the afternoon they would do house visits in the community (community care). We also helped with annual health assessments of monks in the temples, and as an interesting aside, we learned that nurses must remain kneeling the entire time when delivering healthcare to the monks within the temples,” explains Matthews.

“They also had the opportunity to use their theoretical work from Canada to teach health promotion activities at a daycare with preschool kids. The students had developed this teaching material in their previous PN course considering the health issues of the Thai population, and were able to apply and evaluate these teaching plans in the Thai preschools, teaching children with interpreters, which was very impactful for them.”

The diversity of ages and backgrounds, along with cultural, socioeconomic and linguistic differences, all contributed to a transformative learning experience.

“Observing day-to-day life in the clinic for the nurses, being involved in the programs they hold at the clinics, our teaching days for the children in the villages, being involved in the elderly class and seeing how they support health and activity for the elderly – all of it was a wonderful experience,” says student Courtney Schiller.

“I feel very blessed to have been able to be part of this trip. It was a really eye-opening experience and gave me a new perspective on how it feels to be immersed into a culture as a nurse.”

As Schiller notes, it’s a learning experience she and others won’t soon forget. Nor is it one they’ll have trouble applying to their practice after graduation.

“One thing I brought back with me for my future nursing practice is how important cultural humility is as a nurse,” notes Schiller. “Being able to use my knowledge of cultural safety and humility was an important thing for me to experience. I have traveled before, but this experience was much different. I really got to experience the Thai culture and traditions and it was a really amazing thing to be a part of and experience.”

It’s a statement echoed by Schiller’s classmate Madison Catt, who plans to continue her studies to become a Registered Nurse.

“I took back with me the strong sense of community,” says Catt. “The community and nurses were one. Stronger together. There was no fear towards the healthcare system. My classmates and I also got to see first-hand how much a language barrier can affect messages, practice and directions. At times, this language barrier became frustrating, even with interpreters, and so I will always have this in mind when caring for anyone who doesn't speak English as their first language.”

The students penned a blog about their experience. Click here to see photos and follow their experiences.

“We could not be more proud of our students and instructors for having the vision for this project and for being so tenacious in their efforts to make it a reality,” says Yvonne Moritz, Dean of Science, Technology and Health at the College. “Cross-cultural opportunities like these are invaluable for students. I’m sure the experiences they had – working alongside fellow nurses, in such different settings as they may encounter here – will only serve them well in practice and enrich the great quality of education they’re receiving from our nursing faculty at the College.”

As for Thanadol Prasertsung, the originator of the idea, his sights are now set on graduation. He’s on track to complete his program in December. He also hopes the opportunity he had is one that could happen again in future for the students who will follow in his footsteps.

“I feel like my dream came true. To go back to where I came from, to make a difference, or at least help out, I am thankful for this experience. I hope we will continue this project for future students and I will support it however I can, as I want the next group of students to have this amazing lifetime experience.”


Spreading Joie for Culinary Arts
Okanagan College Media Release

A renowned local artist is bringing a unique holiday-inspired art show to Okanagan College’s Kelowna campus, with some of the proceeds going to OC chefs-in-training.

Alex Fong is hosting Joie, a Christmas Art Show, at Infusions Restaurant on Nov. 30 and Dec. 1 from 11 a.m. – 4 p.m.Alex Fong Nov 2019

Fong is well known for his watercolour artwork of splendor and whimsy, a blend of contemporary and impressionistic influences.

Fong will be joined by artists Glenna Turnbull, Bobby Vanderhoorn and Dave Watland who will be showcasing and selling original pieces. Partial proceeds from these sales will go towards students in the Culinary Arts program.

Fong will also be donating one of his pieces that guests will have the chance to win.

“For me, it’s always been about the students,” says Alex Fong. “I had no idea, but each year the Culinary Arts program sends students to Italy where they tour cooking schools and the region, and host a dinner.

“The money raised from this event will go towards this trip. It’s a great opportunity to support a student and allow them to see the world. It is such a big impact on them as people, and something that shapes who they are for the rest of their lives.”

“We’re looking forward to this event, and hope to see a great turn out from the public,” says Dani Korven, Manager, Culinary Arts. “There will be so many beautiful pieces that guests can take home with them, knowing that they are also supporting our Culinary Arts students. We’re grateful to Alex for supporting our students.”

The art show guests will also be able to sample wine from the Valley. Nighthawk Vineyards will be pouring tastings on the Saturday and Vanessa Vineyard will be providing samples on both Saturday and Sunday.

Culinary Arts students and instructors will prepare charcuterie and baked goods. There will also be coffee and tea.

Katherine Neufeld and her class of Floral Design Certificate students from the College’s Continuing Studies department will be providing the decorations for the event to get Infusions into the holiday spirit.

Guests are also encouraged to bring an unwrapped gift for The Kelowna Santas Initiative by Csek Creative that delivers gifts to children in need in the community.

“Kelowna Santas is a grassroots, volunteer initiative that strives to provide a better holiday season for the less fortunate children ages 0-17 that live in the areas of Lake Country to West Kelowna,” says Karen Montgomery, Marketing Associate & Strategist, Csek Creative.

“I think it’s a great initiative and it’s a nice tie-in to our event,” adds Fong.

The event is open to the public and is free of charge.


Community comes full circle for business student
Okanagan College Media Release

Kody Woodmass Nov 2019Every Saturday morning, 24-year-old Kody Woodmass takes part in the Ki-Low-Na Friendship Society’s Saturday Outreach Breakfast, which delivers hot meals to approximately 100 people.

The meal brings a smile to many peoples’ faces. For Woodmass, helping create positive moments for people living on the streets, however small, drives him to continue using his skills to make a difference.

“There is a huge stigma around homelessness and my goal is to end that stigma,” says Woodmass, who is in his third year of the Business Administration program at the Kelowna campus of Okanagan College.

“There are all sorts of individuals who experience homelessness from families fleeing violence to seniors who are living off CPP and miss a payment. If I were to miss one or two pay cheques I could be in the same situation.”

Understanding the importance of community support is something Woodmass knows firsthand. He was able to cover his first semester of College through his savings but since then has worked full time while going to school.

Finding it difficult to cover the costs of school and living, Woodmass was debating whether to graduate with a two-year diploma or continue on to purse a four-year business degree. That’s when a colleague of his who was also an Okanagan College student suggested he apply for student awards. Woodmass received two student awards that semester, and two more the following year, enabling him to pursue his goal of a Bachelor of Business Administration. Woodmass will be graduating next year.

“These awards are the reason I’m still at Okanagan College, otherwise my studies would have ended sooner,” says Woodmass.

Woodmass is already applying his business skills to the real world. As an Aboriginal Outreach Worker with Ki-Low-Na Friendship Society, he is developing an employment program for people living on the streets. The Clean Up Group is modelled after a successful social enterprise in Vancouver and teaches both on-the-job and soft skills to help people gain confidence and experience in order to find full-time employment.

Woodmass is one of approximately 330 students who are receiving scholarships and bursaries at three awards receptions hosted by Okanagan College. The first event took place in Penticton Nov. 13, followed by Vernon, Nov. 14 and Kelowna’s event takes place this Thursday.

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

In total, more than 750 awards valued at nearly $600,000 will be handed out to Okanagan College students.

“We are thankful to all donors who have created student awards for our growing student base,” says Okanagan College President Jim Hamilton.

Hamilton notes that since 2005, Okanagan College’s student base has grown by more than 70 per cent. More than 21,000 students per year now take a course at OC, while the College saw 9,244 full-time students enrolled in 2018-19.

“The investment demonstrates that our community values the transformative power of education. It also acknowledges the far-reaching impact graduates can have on their families and indeed communities. Congratulations to the award winners and thank you to our donors for investing in students.”


New Chair for OC Board
Okanagan College Media Release

Okanagan College’s Board of Governors has a new Chair and Vice Chair.

Gloria Morgan has been elected Chair, following the resignation of Chris Derickson, who left the position as a consequence of his recent election as Chief of the Westbank First Nation. Juliette Cunningham was elected as Vice Chair, replacing Morgan.
Morgan and Cunningham Nov 2019

“I’m looking forward to serving in this role,” explains Morgan, who has been an RCMP officer, a general practice lawyer as well as a Crown Prosecutor. “With a new building and new programs about to come on stream, and work beginning on our next strategic plan, Okanagan College is at an exciting juncture.”

Morgan was Chief of the Splatsin Indian Band from 2001 to 2005. She is a former President of the Enderby and District Chamber of Commerce and was a member of the RCMP’s E Division Aboriginal Advisory Committee. She also served on the board of the Provincial Community Co-ordination for Women's Safety. She was the 2016 recipient of the Community Leader Awards - Community Builder award for the North Okanagan. Morgan has been on the Board of Governors since 2016.

Juliette Cunningham is a former Vernon City Councillor, as well as Vice-Chair of the Regional District of the North Okanagan, and Vice-Chair of the Okanagan Basin Water Board. She is a business owner with an extensive history of working with non-profit boards such as the Women’s Centre, Junction Literacy, People Place, Museum and the Early Years Council. Cunnigham was also named Vernon’s 2016 Woman of the Year by Vernon Women in Business.

Derickson announced his resignation as Board of Governors’ Chair on Tuesday and explained the position warrants more attention than he can offer given his responsibilities as Chief of one of Canada’s most progressive First Nations bands. “I’ve learned much in my years serving on the College Board, including what a vital role the College plays in the cultural and economic fabric of this region. I look forward to building on the already-strong relations between OC and the Westbank First Nation.”


Three generations give to Health Sciences Centre
Okanagan College Media Release 

A three-generation Kelowna dental family is supporting the future of dentistry by donating to Okanagan College's new Health Sciences Centre.

Leitch Family Nov 2019The Leitch family have pledged $65,000 to support the new dental clinic that will train Certified Dental Assistants (CDAs) at the College's Kelowna campus.

There is a long tradition of dentists in the Leitch family. Mac Leitch practised dentistry in Kelowna from 1955 to 1992 and was followed by his son, Ian, who started in 1983. Ian's son-in-law, Scott Martyna, is now an oral and maxillofacial surgeon in Kelowna. Ian's wife Theresa and sister Melanie Grant are both dental hygienists.

“Our family is happy to contribute to the new Okanagan College dental clinic to acknowledge the importance of training and providing CDAs for the Kelowna dental community,” says Ian.

“We would like to honour our father, Mac, for his dental contribution to Kelowna. We are grateful for his love of people and dentistry, which encouraged many of our family to pursue a career in dentistry.”

Mac and Ian share that the CDA program at the College is outstanding, with some of their best employees coming from the program. Both have taken on many practicum students over the years.

“CDAs have always been a vital part of our dental teams. Okanagan College has provided our family with first-class dental assistants for over 60 years,” says Ian.

“We have benefited from the CDA program and we feel an obligation for our family to give back, and to enable the future success of dentists in the Okanagan.”

The Leitch family’s donation will support a classroom for CDA students.

“The Leitch family has a long history in our local dental community and we're proud that they are endorsing our program in this way,” says Helen Jackman, Okanagan College Foundation Executive Director.

“Thanks to their gift, students will be learning in a leading-edge facility that reflects the rapid advances in dentistry and health care so they're well prepared to enter today’s modern dental clinics.”

Okanagan College's new $18.9-million Health Sciences Centre will replace its current Health building, which dates back to 1963. The new Health Sciences Centre will include state-of-the-art labs and simulation spaces, ensuring students are equipped to meet the needs of our community.

The Centre will train eight in-demand health care professions including CDA, Bachelor of Science in Nursing and Health Care Assistant.

The B.C. government is funding $15.4 million of the Centre. The Okanagan College Foundation’s Our Students, Your Health Campaign aims to raise $3.5 million to complete the building and $1.5 million to upgrade technology and equipment, and create new scholarships and bursaries for students entering care professions.

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