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Gateway program gives students the tools they need to succeed in school and life
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Gateway program gives students the tools they need to succeed in school and life
Okanagan College Media Release

Desiree Tachit Jan 2019Last year, 19-year-old Desiree Tachit found herself struggling with anxiety, depression and unhealthy coping mechanisms. The idea of applying to or attending college was not something she could fathom at the time. A hands-on experience with tools and training by Okanagan College and Central School changed all that.

Now, a graduate of Gateway – a unique collaborative program designed to connect high school students with the skilled trades – Tachit has applied to not one but two programs at the College, Sheet Metal Worker and Heavy Mechanical Trades. Regardless of which path she ends up pursuing, she’ll have some help along the way. She was recently awarded four scholarships to help pay for her future education.

“This program inspires you to take life by the reins,” says Tachit, adding the program has given her new hope for the future.

Graduates of the Gateway program shared their personal journeys and success stories with the public at a special graduation ceremony at Okanagan College Jan. 25. The innovative program is a partnership between the College and Central School, which typically supports students who have challenges learning in a traditional school environment.

The 10-week course is open to students attending Central School and provides an introduction to various trades offered at Okanagan College. Students have an opportunity to try carpentry, electrical work, sheet metal and culinary arts. But the program is much broader than just an introduction to trades. Gateway focuses on the students' holistic growth and development by supporting youth in attending a wide array of social activities and community events.

“We believe a focus on community building enables the students to be succe
ssful,” explains Rob Law, Central Programs Gateway Coordinator.

“Gateway is about placing students in new experiences, highly supported, and allowing them to struggle, learn and grow.”

The students went canoeing, biking, hiking and read to Grade 3 students. The youth spent several days at Big While (courtesy of Big White) skiing, tubing, skating as well as a spaghetti dinner with firefighters at the Big White Fire Department.

For Clinton McIntyre, 16, who describes himself as someone who typically prefers to stay in his room and play video games, the program helped him make friends and step out of his comfort zone.

Alex Nitsch describes himself as in a slump and often skipping school prior to Gateway. During the program he had an opportunity to spend five days job shadowing on a construction site where he was given an opportunity to operate a rock truck. He loved it. He’s now applied to Heavy Mechanical Trades and hopes to complete a dual credit program, where he finishes his high school credentials at the College while also earning a trade certificate.

“Gateway taught me to just stick things out, and not give up,” says Nitsch.

Now in its eighth year, the Gateway grad ceremony also featured several students from years past who shared their success stories.
Gateway Grad Jan 2019
“I asked to speak today because I wanted to tell everyone how honoured I was to be part of this program,” says Brittany Hill, who describes herself as a troublemaker in high school, resulting in her not graduating with her friends.

“I am now in my Professional Cook Level 2 (at Okanagan College). Culinary has been a dream of mine since I was a little girl. I am no longer a failure going down my failing path. I am me, being my own person, heading towards a dream I’ve always dreamed of being.”

During the event, the two lead instructors for the program were given mugs with the printed phase ‘I’m a teacher, what’s your super power?’ as well as a heart-felt thank you from the students.

“It was fantastic to see the students build confidence,” says Kelly Brochu, a vocational instructor at Okanagan College who taught this year’s Gateway program.

“With a hands-on approach instead of just using their minds, the students were able to find success where they haven’t found success before. Once they find that success, the sky is the limit.”

The Gateway program runs each year from November to January and is funded by the British Columbia Ministry of Advanced Education, Skills & Training.

Donors to the Okanagan College Foundation and community donors provided scholarships to support students who want to continue their studies at the College. Scholarships were provided by the Joyce Family Foundation, Dee Capozzi, Dr. Steve and Terry Tuck, Rotary Club of Kelowna and the Gary Bennett Family Fund, as well as other supporters.