Thorpe family celebrate a decade of giving

Penticton's Rick and Yasmin Thorpe are celebrating a milestone by further increasing their generosity to students.

Corrie Knapp

Corrie Knapp

Upon reaching 10 years of granting students in the South Okanagan with sizeable scholarships, Rick and Yasmin Thorpe are celebrating the milestone by further increasing their generosity.

“If we can educate students closer to home then there’s a good chance they’re going to stay at home, get jobs here, and some of them are going to create business and economic opportunities here in the Okanagan,” said Rick, who served as MLA for Okanagan-Westside from 1996 to 2009.

“We’re also parents and grandparents,” Yasmin said. “When our children went away to school we were empty-nesters so it was hard. It’s a bit of a selfish thing on our part wanting the students to stay close to home.”

The couple launched the Rick and Yasmin Thorpe & Friends Scholarship Fund in 2006 and have donated over $70,000 to Okanagan College. After this year’s contribution, that total will be nearing six figures with the couple dishing out $25,000 in 2015 alone. In addition to that, the Thorpe’s donated more than $50,000 in scholarships over the same period of time for students attending UBC Okanagan.

The scholarship’s criteria has been tailored for the South Okanagan. To be eligible, students must expect to graduate, or have graduated, from a high school within the boundaries of the Okanagan-Westside riding, and be registered in a full-time program at Okanagan College.

Recipients must be undertaking courses in business, viticulture, agriculture, engineering, tourism/hospitality, trades, technologies, English or creative writing, science or nursing.

One recipient from last year was nursing student Corrie Knapp, who was able to ease her debt load with help from the Thorpe’s.

“I didn’t have enough money to pay for car insurance or my phone bill,” she said. “The scholarship came just in time to cover those bills. I got it in my second semester so it helped me pay for the things I needed until I was out of school and could be working my summer job.”

Knapp said the nursing program is expensive, and with a heavy workload, she isn’t left with enough hours in the day to work part time.

Without receiving the scholarship she said she probably would have had to take out another loan or see if she could borrow money from her family.

Knapp is studying nursing to gain the skills needed for aid work in developing countries.

“I’ve always been interested in doing something medical, and I’ve always known that I wanted to do missions work,” she said. “I want a career that can be applicable anywhere without the need for a whole lot of equipment.”

Knapp’s ambitions to work overseas support Yasmin’s belief that a good education can take a person anywhere they want.

“Growing up in the Caribbean my dad was adamant about education,” she said.

While all post-secondary education is likely to open new opportunities, Rick believes that receiving it locally yields even better results.

“Based on my own experience, if we can educate our young adults closer to home, and they can get the degrees and education here, there’s a very, very good chance they’re going to stay in the area,” Rick said. “If we get them educated at one of our fine colleges or universities then they have a very good chance of getting opportunities here in the Okanagan.”

After helping students in need for 10 years, Rick said each recipient has shown themselves to be very thankful, “and they all tell us that this money will help them tremendously achieve their dreams.”

The scholarship’s criteria is partially subjective.

“It’s going to be based on how are they doing at school, but not dependent totally on the brightest student with the highest marks,” Rick said. “It’s a combination of that and their financial needs.”

Staff at Okanagan College will be reviewing applications and compiling a shortlist.

Kathy Butler, executive director for Okanagan College Foundation, said the Thorpe’s understand the transformative power of education.

“That level of giving really makes a difference for people who are finding it quite challenging financially to be able to stay in the community and go to school, and the fact that the Thorpe’s have increased the number of awards in celebration of their 10th anniversary is pretty special,” she said.

To encourage even greater participation, Rick and Yasmin will be visiting the high schools in the area to inform counsellors of the opportunity.

To find the application guidelines online, visit and search for a program that qualifies.