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This is the second time Caleb Wykes has graduated from Gateway to Trades, but it's hard to say which time has been more impactful.
The first time Wykes took the 10-week program that introduces high school students to the skilled trades, he graduated with a desire to “straighten up.” In the past Wykes would skip school, but after Gateway he started showing up regularly and working hard. The seventeen year old completed his Grade 11 and 12 and graduated early.
The second time through the program Wykes benefited from getting an opportunity to try out a range of trades confirming which one he enjoyed most – automotive service technician.
Wykes is not only accepted into the program at the College starting Feb. 3, he’s also received four scholarships to help him pay for his studies.
“Before Gateway I never thought I would be going to college or be doing a college course,” says Wykes. “Now, I feel comfortable to start college.”
The Gateway to Trades program celebrated its ninth graduation of students at Okanagan College on Friday, Jan. 24. Wykes was one of ten students honoured.
The unique program is a collaboration between the College and Central School and is typically for students who have challenges learning in a traditional school environment. Students in Grades 10-12 have an opportunity to explore trades training with hands-on learning in programs like carpentry, electrical work, sheet metal and culinary arts.
“Gateway helps to open doors for students who otherwise might not even consider higher education,” explains Rob Law, Central Programs Gateway Coordinator.
“This program breaks down barriers and helps to bridge the gap between high school and post-secondary. Ultimately, it’s all about building up their confidence and comfort in the classroom, so that when the time comes, students will feel empowered and ready to step into college and keep going with their education.”
The program is not only about traditional learning. Gateway to Trades promotes personal growth by introducing students to a range of social activities and community events. Students went cycling, did yoga, and went skating and skiing at Big White. They mentored Grade 3 students learning to read and built shelves for a seacan that will serve as a mobile library in Africa.
Helping the students learn how to work as a team and make friends is integral to the success of the program says Randy Horne, Central School Principal.
“This program is often two steps forward and one step back,” says Horne. “What makes the students successful is that they’re building relationships.”
Adrian Zettergreen started Gateway during a turbulent time in her life, and credits it for helping her learn to overcome her anxiety.
“The one thing I had was Gateway that kept me going,” recalls Zettergreen, 17, the only female in the program. “It was knowing that if I was here, if I tried I could do it and go somewhere with it and be successful.”
Zettergreen is now planning to pursue electrical or welding.
“My key takeaway is if you put your mind to it, you can do anything,” she says.
“This program is truly one of the most tangible and inspiring examples we see, year in year out, of Okanagan College’s mission to transform lives and communities,” says Steve Moores, Dean of Trades and Apprenticeship for Okanagan College.
“It’s all about creating access, giving students a chance to pick up the tools, step into the shops, be mentored by our very supportive instructors and experience a trade for themselves. Congratulations to all of the Gateway students graduating! We hope to see you again in future as Okanagan College trades students.”
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 program include The Colin & Lois Pritchard Foundation, which provides funding for students to get their drivers education and license.
Okanagan College Foundation donors and community donors provided scholarships to support students who want to continue their studies. 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.