A pair of former educators are supporting the next generation of students as they take their first steps into a formal learning environment.
Longtime advocates of Okanagan College, Allan and Evelyn Markin have pledged $2,500 to the new Little Learners Academy at the Penticton campus.
The need for the child care centre has been on the couple’s radar since Allan was Campus Principal at the College more than 15 years ago.
“I was involved in some of the early conversations where we recognized there were mature students and College employees with children,” said Allan. “The need for child care was acute and is still an obstacle for parents in the region.”
During his time working at the campus (1988-2003), Allan saw firsthand the sacrifices parents made for their children, often at the expense of pursuing their own educational goals.
“It’s wonderful to see the centre develop from an idea to become a reality, and to see families in Penticton already benefitting from it,” he adds.
Little Learners opened in September and is operated through a partnership between Okanagan College and the Penticton and District Community Resources Society (PDCRS). Registration is open to College students and employees, as well as families in the South Okanagan, which the Markins see as part of the College’s broader role in the community.
“Affordable, accessible child care is essential to the educational system and a healthy society,” said Allan. “Evelyn and I have always been big believers that we all have a responsibility to help build up our community to make it better.”
The Markins’ altruism doesn’t stop at the edge of the campus. Both are well known for championing many educational, fundraising and community-based initiatives in the Penticton area. Their soft spot for youth in need has also led them to support and fundraise for a children’s orphanage and art school in Russia, including travelling overseas to lend a hand in person.
According to Evelyn Markin, another passion of the couple’s is cooking, which inspired them to support one of the kitchen spaces at Little Learners. As a former elementary school teacher, she understands the influence nutrition and healthy eating has on a student’s ability to learn and process information.
“You need to feed the mind to learn well,” she said. “Nutrition has an impact on activity levels, social interaction and brain function, especially in early childhood development. The educational foundation Little Learners provides will help prepare children for success when they face more difficult work in elementary school and afterwards.”
The Markins’ spirit of philanthropy has spread through their family to their daughter Allison, who also contributed to the fundraising campaign earlier this year in honour of her parents.
“It’s deeply inspiring to see the Markins’ dedication to helping children both in our region and across the globe,” said campaign chair Mary Ellen Heidt, who also sits on the College’s Regional Advisory Committee. “They have a long history of involvement with the campus and we thank them for this generous gift, and for continuing to be champions of education for learners of all ages.”
To make a donation or learn more about the innovative project, visit okanagan.bc.ca/give.