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College graduate steps into rewarding career supporting Indigenous communities

Alice George Aug 2018

From an early age, Alice George knew she had a passion for helping others. This spring she parlayed that lifelong interest into a new career as one the first graduates of the College’s Aboriginal Community Support Worker Certificate program in Vernon.

While working as a cashier for the Nk’Mip Gas and Convenience Store in Oliver, George often found herself speaking to people who needed more assistance than she could offer.

“I’ve always had an interest in helping others and I knew I could do more,” explains George.

The opportunity presented itself when George learned of a new program the College was launching in the fall of 2017.

While George was initially intimidated by the idea of going back to school, she and her husband challenged each other to pursue continuing their educations. After her husband Edward completed his six-month program at the Vernon campus, George started looking for educational opportunities for herself.

“I came across the Aboriginal Community Support Worker (ASCW) program and I was interested in it immediately,” says George.

“This program was the product of extensive consultation with Aboriginal communities throughout the Interior of B.C. as well as a number of community entities that serve Indigenous peoples in the region,” explains Dr. Dennis Silvestrone, Okanagan College’s Director of Continuing Studies and Corporate Training. “The growing need for social and community support workers with a deeper knowledge of the specific challenges facing Indigenous individuals and families prompted us to respond to this training need.”

The full-time program includes course work and a practicum that prepares individuals to step into community support work assisting Indigenous individuals and families, both on- and off- reserve, to enhance their quality of life. The next intake launches at the Vernon campus this fall.

“The program gave me a better understanding of Indigenous history and current issues facing Indigenous communities today,” says George. “If you’re willing to dig deeper and become self-aware of your own biases and values, you can really build on your professional skills. That is when the work becomes more interesting.”

“The College was such a welcoming place to go to school and my experience has inspired me to pursue additional post-secondary education,” says George. “My perspective has really shifted – I now have a much more compassionate and empathetic view on how to support others.”

The Aboriginal Community Support Worker certificate is one of hundreds of Continuing Studies courses and certificates offered by the College at its campuses and learning centres from Revelstoke to the South Okanagan. Learn more about the program here.