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It’s all in the family for two Salmon Arm sisters who graduated from Okanagan College this past weekend with top honours for their outstanding academic achievements.
Erica Fairley and Andrea Pickard attended the Salmon Arm campus where they racked up award-winning marks.
Fairley received the Governor General’s Collegiate Bronze Medal with a graduating grade average of 95.27 per cent – the highest achievement of any full-time Okanagan College graduate of an associate degree or diploma program this year.
Meanwhile, Pickard received Okanagan College’s President’s Award in recognition of her 92.38 per cent graduating grade average. Two such awards go to students with the highest grades excluding the Collegiate Bronze Medal.
The two women received their diplomas in Business Administration and both plan to pursue careers in accounting. They were among 1,600 students recognized at Okanagan College’s Spring Convocation ceremonies held at the Kelowna campus.
It’s hard to say whether achievement is in their genes, but both women credit their supportive families and a commitment to professionalism for their success.
“This is for our children, to help them understand the importance of going to school, and that if you work hard, you will be rewarded,” said Pickard.
Her sister agreed.
“It’s been a juggle,” said Fairley, whose six-year-old son attended the ceremony along with Pickard’s husband and their two children, ages eight and 10. “Both of our husbands, and our families, have sacrificed a lot for us to do this. They were very, very supportive and took on a lot of extra roles.”
Pickard, 36, was the first to decide she wanted to return to school to expand on her bookkeeping career. At the time, Fairley, now 35, had just been laid off from her work as an electrical designer for a company that provided automated systems to saw mills.
“I thought why not,” she said.
With practical work experience already under their belts, they applied their discipline of producing flawless work to their academic performance – something both admit they never considered when they were attending high school in Salmon Arm.
“When you’re working you just don’t do things halfway,” Fairley said.
The strategy paid off, and come September, Fairley will be employed full-time in Salmon Arm at BDO Canada. She’ll spend the rest of the summer completing four more courses toward her Bachelor’s degree. After that, she plans on becoming a Chartered Accountant.
Pickard is still weighing her options between becoming a CA or a Certified General Accountant.
As for their high academic achievement, both credited the College for its commitment to supportive learning.
“The teachers, the staff, the administration, everyone makes it so easy to learn,” Pickard said. “You’d think it would feel like a business, but it’s more like a community where everyone is so focused on helping each other learn.”
Part of that supportive learning came at the instruction of Okanagan School of Business Professor Megan Mills, who taught them courses at the Salmon Arm campus in marketing, management principles, and organizational behaviour.
"Erica and Andrea are exceptional people, who were able to complete our very rigorous program, all while looking after their families," she said. "I know they will be successful in their careers. They won't settle for less."
The 2011-12 Spring Convocation marked the largest graduating class since the re-establishment of Okanagan College in 2005.