Personal connections highlight Early Childhood dual credit program

By College Relations | March 1, 2023

A group of Early Childhood Education students at Okanagan College.
Kelowna high school students in a dual credit Early Childhood Education program at Okanagan College. Emily Patenaude is furthest on the right.

Emily Patenaude knows what it’s like to be misunderstood as a child; she also understands a thing or two about fighting through adversity.

The experience and knowledge will serve the Kelowna high school student well as she looks to begin her post-secondary education. Emily is one of 10 Central Okanagan-area students completing a five-month Okanagan College course in Early Childhood Education while still in high school, known as a dual credit program.

Emily’s passion for childcare began early as she watched her brother struggle to connect and communicate with caregivers. It impacted how she felt, and she was drawn to considering a profession helping children with disabilities and their families navigate an often-unforgiving world.

Two years ago, she was thrown a curveball.

“I’m legally blind. I lost my vision two years ago. I know what it’s like to be in a system that is not meant for you. You can’t see, you can’t breathe. These are things that children are dealing with as well,” she said. “It’s very important for me to be helping children with disabilities, helping them integrate better into kindergarten. My dream is to open a preschool for children with disabilities, creating a safe space for those families.”

The ECE dual credit program at Okanagan College’s Kelowna campus is open to Central Okanagan high school students. Participants get credit both toward their high school diploma, as well as their post-secondary program. The dual credit courses are also offered at OC’s campuses in Salmon Arm, Vernon and Penticton, in programs ranging from health care, culinary, trades, technology and childcare.

Many of the students enrolled in the Kelowna ECE dual credit program say they want to pursue a career working with children, and several, including Emily, will attend OC in the fall, using the dual credit course as a springboard to get closer to beginning their careers.

“A common link in this industry is remembering how we were treated as children,” said instructor Gabriela Fisken. “We get into this industry to be an advocate for children so we talk about strategies and practices that we can use to engage and help children and families. This is such a solid group of students that will soon be ready to step into a challenging but rewarding career.”

A weeknight online class this month included a special guest: B.C.’s Minister of State for Child Care Grace Lore, who says she was thrilled to hear from the students firsthand.

“It was wonderful to join the dual credit class at Okanagan College to hear directly from high school students like Emily that plan to continue their ECE studies and work with young children,” said Grace Lore, Minister of State for Child Care. “We need early childhood educators, that’s why our government has made historic investments to ensure that they are recognized as skilled professionals with better wages, professional development and educational opportunities like this dual credit program at Okanagan College. I am so pleased to see young, passionate ECE and ECE-assistants entering the workforce and providing a service that so many families rely on.”

OC President Neil Fassina and Central Okanagan Public Schools Assistant Superintendent Al Lalonde joined the online class for discussion as well and questioned the students about their experience in the course, and their plans for the future.

“Hearing from these students about what is inspiring their future plans is remarkable,” said Fassina. “Dual credit programs provide local high school students an opportunity to experience what it is like to study in the College environment in pursuit of skills that are of interest to them, and which can be the first steps in their career.”

They type of dual credit programs available vary by OC campuses. Learn more about what courses are available as a dual credit in your location here.



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