Okanagan College Celebrates a Decade of Recognizing Aboriginal Student Achievements

Saturday, March 9 marked the 10th Annual Aboriginal Student Recognition Ceremony at Okanagan College and students, educators and community members came together to celebrate students’ accomplishments and acknowledge those who inspired and supported them along the way.

“The ceremony is to recognize that these students are getting an education while still holding onto their Indigenous background and teachings,” says Jewell Gillies, Aboriginal Transition Program Advisor. “There are cultural teachings that we on the coast learn from the Big House that give us a sense of our identity, but we want our students to understand that they can carry that with them while they study here. We want to bring harmony to both places.”

The Big House, in the past, referred to literal big houses that sheltered up to four families of a clan. Today, they house ceremonies, decision-making, and discussions between nations and clans. “It’s a place where we inherit knowledge from our communities,” added Gillies.

The ceremony included performances by Metis Jigger, Mary Ouillette, Powwow dancers, Arnold and Deanna Ackachuk, Inuit Throat Singer, Shirley Amguttitairiq, and keynote speakers. Okanagan College President, Jim Hamilton was among those present to congratulate students.

“This event is always one of the highlights of the year for us at Okanagan College,” said Hamilton. “It’s an honour to be part of recognizing our students’ successes, and it’s equally heartening to see them turn around and acknowledge their instructors, family, friends and community members who have invested in their education.”

That sense of community and collaboration is something Okanagan College business student Wendy Terbasket says she has experienced during her time at the College.

“My people are making great strides for the betterment of their future and communities,” says Terbasket. “The College’s values are so in line with my own: everyone working together and working toward a common goal. It just feels so great to be at a school that is so accepting and supportive.”

Terbasket is among those students who nominated an instructor they felt significantly impacted them and deserved to be recognized. She nominated OC School of Business Professor Scott Overland.

“Scott has been a great sounding board for my concerns, not only about my post-secondary journey but also about the struggles in my community,” added Terbasket. “He’s always been so helpful and it is greatly appreciated.”

Instructors Teresa Proudlove, Laura Jockman, Richard Volk, Adam Craig, Stacey Grimm, Denise Boudreau, Dana Hurtubise, Tracy Riley, Diane Little, Katherine Bonell, and Matthia Vaillancourt were also honoured for going above and beyond for their students.

Present at the ceremony were honourary guests: Wilfred Barnes, Syilx Elder; Roxanne Lindley, Chief of the Westbank First Nation; Secwepemc Nation Dignitaries: Darrell Jones, Louis Thomas, George William, Jennifer Sharp and Nicole Skidmore; Loyal Wooldridge, City of Kelowna Councilor; and Shelley Joseph, Reconciliation Canada.

Original article from Okanagan College