The donation will support gateway programs focused on technology and entrepreneurship for students who have faced barriers to education
Kelowna Secondary School Grade 12 student Kiana Nazembokaei has known for several years that she’s wanted to study computer programming. Having moved to Canada from Iran, Nazembokaei thought she’d have to wait until university to begin her learning journey. That all changed when she signed up and was accepted into Gateway to Tech, presented by Scotiabank, at Okanagan College.
The 17-week program is designed to create a window into the fast-growing tech sector for high school students, helping them develop skills and broadening their awareness for education and employment opportunities after graduation. Students from Grades 10 to 12 receive high school credits for taking the program and ideally leave with a better sense if the industry is a fit.
“I was so excited to have this opportunity and I learned a lot,” says Nazembokaei, adding Gateway to Tech reinforced her desire to enter computer programming with a focus on coding and building websites.
Gateway to Tech initially started as a pilot, but thanks to a major investment from Scotiabank, the program will be accessible to students across the Okanagan for the next four years. The funding will also support the development and launch of a new program called Gateway to Business and Community.
Scotiabank is donating $250,000 to enable both programs which focus on opening up high school students’ eyes to hands-on learning opportunities, building fundamental skills and providing insights to meaningful careers here in the Okanagan and beyond.
The funding aims to support equitable and inclusive access to the College’s youth Gateway programs – particularly for Indigenous learners and girls. The donation is part of ScotiaRISE, the bank’s 10-year, $500-million initiative to promote economic resilience among individuals who have faced barriers to education.
“Through ScotiaRISE, we are proud to partner with Okanagan College to remove barriers young people face that impede their access to education and employment opportunities,” says (Larry Clements), District Vice President at Scotiabank. “We hope both programs will support the arc of a young person’s life on to a positive and fulfilling future as a healthy and contributing member of their community.
Gateway to Tech is already challenging perceptions about who should pursue tech careers. Nazembokaei says she was hesitant about entering the course because she’s heard that computer programming is typically male dominated. However, after Gateway to Tech, she concluded, “I can do this and gender doesn’t really matter.”
Funding from Scotiabank will enable the College to develop and launch Gateway to Community and Business, which is specifically for Indigenous students. The program will be designed with Indigenous community partners and students with a goal of launching in 2024.
Within a fun and engaging structure, the program will create connections with Indigenous community leaders and allow students to play with business and governance concepts such as management, entrepreneurship, accounting, marketing, human resources and finance. The goal of the program is to help Indigenous students feel comfortable on a college campus and identify opportunities for their participation in local governance or by starting or working with Indigenous-owned businesses.
Neil Fassina, Okanagan College President, says Scotiabank’s generous gift will enhance the College’s focus on supporting equal access and participation in post-secondary education.
“Strengthening opportunities for high school students to experience post-secondary programs promotes diversity and inclusion, which benefits our entire community – businesses, organizations, families and of course the students,” says Fassina.
“Thank you to Scotiabank for investing in meaningful Gateway programs that will absolutely transform individual lives and our communities.”
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