By Chadd Cawson
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

May may be the month to usually bring flowers, but for the College of the Rockies (COTR) it brought successes that in turn benefit the community. The College of the Rockies located on the unceded territories of the Secwépemc and Ktunaxa People and the land chosen as home by the Métis Peoples of B.C. which runs along the Columbia River made two exciting announcements last month. Their Trades Sampler program formed a partnership with the Windermere District Farmers’ Institute (WDFI) that has benefitted both parties, and Jhonna Lyn Valerio was named the 2022 recipient of their Our Future Leaders Scholarship.

The Trades Sampler program is made up of twelve high school students in grade 11 or 12 from David Thompson Secondary School and has been held at the Invermere campus for the last twenty years. “The Trades Sampler program is able to hold its training at the Institute’s barn free of charge,” said Michelle Taylor, Invermere campus manager in a news release last month. “In exchange, the students completed repairs to the building’s interior, improving its safety and functionality.”  

This 12-week program introduced students to 10 different trades: Carpentry and Finishing, Plumbing, Electrical, Automotive, Welding, Heavy Duty Mechanical, Industrial Mechanic (Millwright), Saw Filing, Insulation installation, and Surveying. Students also gain a variety of industry certifications including Occupational First Aid Level 1, WHMIS, Fall Protection, and S100 Fire Suppression. WDFI which hosts a Farmers’ Market each Wednesday out of the barn couldn’t be more thrilled about the repairs which included refurbishing the hard-to-manage vendor windows with safer, more functional ones and insulating much of the building.

“We are really pleased with all the work done in the historic barn,” said Anne Rose Manager, and member of WDFI in a news release last month. “A big thank you to all the College’s trades students and to trades instructor Jesse Okros for his skills and management of this amazing project. The Farmers’ Market vendors are excited to start this season with all the upgrades in the barn.” 

This latest intake of twelve students graduated on May 5 and the requests are already coming in from a variety of businesses looking to hire them for entry-level positions. “We’re excited to see the positive momentum happening around this program and are grateful to be able to continue nurturing a great partnership with David Thompson High School, ITA, WDFI, Home Hardware and Canfor,” said Taylor. The Trades Program has given back to and benefited the community in a myriad of ways. Just to name a few are the small picnic tables they built for Little Badgers Daycare at the Akisqnuk First Nation and stop-gap ramps for wheelchair accessibility in downtown Invermere. 

With the Columbia Valley being a hub for tourists and hospitality, what better way to also benefit this community by creating future leaders in this field. Valerio who was named COTR’s Our Future Leaders Scholarship winner was also presented with a cheque for $1,500. The two-year Hospitality Management diploma program offered out of the Invermere campus is a response to the high demand for hospitality management professionals in the region and provides practical hands-on experience in combination with academic and business. Valerio professors called her a hard worker and delight to have in the classroom along with her academic excellence was why she was nominated for the Our Future Leaders Scholarship.

Valerio came to Canada from the Philippines and is in her final year of her program. On top of keeping up with her schoolwork, Valerio is also the secretary and auditor for the Hospitality Student Council and oversees the planning and finances of on- and off-campus events and works part time at a local café and grocery store. 

“I am deeply honoured to receive this Scholarship,” said Valerio in the announcement the college sent out last month. “It has become a passion of mine to continue to build my skills and abilities as I strive to provide excellent service to others. This scholarship will help me pursue this goal and directly benefit the lives of others.” 

Valerio is full speed ahead as her future plans include working as a hotel front desk employee where she will only further her skills and abilities to lead and manage others. “It’s my highest ambition to eventually manage or operate a hotel of my own,” said Valerio. “My time at the College, combined with my work history will serve as a strong foundation for me. The Our Future Leaders Scholarship will also be a tremendous help as I move forward.”

The adult upgrading program returned to the Invermere campus which is upgrading for academic and career entry. UACE with in-classroom delivery for the first time in 10 years.  “This face-to-face delivery returned to the campus in fall 2022. We are celebrating today with the students who have successfully completed their upgrading courses,” Taylor told the Pioneer on June 2. “Some students will now enrol into full time academic studies and other students will continue their adult upgrading for career entry and post-secondary admissions in the fall.”