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Students and their families, alongside College officials and donors from the community, gathered on Wednesday, June 15 for the annual Salmon Arm campus awards ceremony. And for a number of students training toward helping careers, a helping hand from those around them is bringing big dreams within reach.
As new Salmon Arm resident and mature student Shayda Yazdanmehr attests, receiving a bursary has done far more than reduce financial strain—it has validated her decision to return to school.
“Receiving an award from the College is incredibly motivating,” says Yazdanmehr, who took home the Salmon Arm Campus Adult Academic and Career Prep Award. “Since moving here, the College and this community have been so supportive. And thanks to that, I’ve been able to get on the fast-track towards my career goals far quicker than I ever expected.”
Originally from Yellowknife, NWT, Yazdanmehr moved to the Shuswap two years ago after visiting family in the region. She soon decided to pursue upgrading as part of the College’s Adult Basic Education (ABE) offerings, which are designed to assist students in obtaining the prerequisites needed to enter one of the College’s degree, diploma, or certificate programs. After completing the necessary upgrades, she plans to enrol in one of the College’s Health and Social Development programs and has already begun shadowing local health industry professionals to get a sense of the day-to-day work in a variety of fields.
“I am very interested in blending a program in healthcare with various healing arts and hope to work with children,” explains Yazdanmehr. “OC has many opportunities for me to get started on that path.”
Salmon Arm-born Julia Agassiz echoes her fellow student’s comments about the cost-savings of being able to pursue her education in the Shuswap community. Agassiz will graduate from the 18-month Practical Nursing diploma program in January. A mother of twin five-year-olds, she says being able to stay close to home has made all the difference in her being able to pursue her nursing dream.
“Having the opportunity to stay in Salmon Arm and not have to commute elsewhere, or move, has been tremendously helpful,” notes Agassiz, who also credits receiving an award as inspiration to finish her program strong over the next six months.
“As a mother of two young children, any additional support I can bring in for my education is a huge relief and goes a long way. I am so grateful for this award. I hope as I enter into a career where I’ll be helping people day in, day out, that I’ll be able to pay it forward and make an impact in the community.”
At the ceremony, Joan Ragsdale, Regional Dean of the Shuswap-Revelstoke, acknowledged the hard work and determination of students, and the role that community support plays in enriching the learning and teaching experience in Salmon Arm.
“I extend a heartfelt congratulations to all of the recipients,” says Ragsdale. “Although I have been here only a short while, I have seen and experienced firsthand the personal commitment to students and excellence that exists at this campus.
“The support from community and the donors is the strongest I have seen anywhere in the province, and I am delighted to be a part of an event which supports and honours student achievement.”
This year, more than $75,000 will be disbursed to Shuswap area students from the Okanagan College Foundation, the Shuswap Community Foundation, local community groups and individual donors.