OC graduate trains to support Indigenous community

Aboriginal Community Support Worker (ASCW) is the product of extensive consultation with Aboriginal communities throughout the Interior of B.C.

Early on, Alice George knew she had a passion for helping others. Working as a cashier for the Nk’Mip Gas and Convenience Store in Oliver, George met people who needed more assistance than she could offer during her interactions at her workplace.

“I had an interest in helping others,” said George. “I knew I could do more.”

Going back to school was hard so George and her husband, Edward, challenged each other to pursue continuing their educations. Once her husband had successfully completed his six-month program through Okanagan College, George started looking for educational opportunities for herself.

Turns out that finding the right program was the easy part.

“I noticed the Aboriginal Community Support Worker (ASCW) program and I was really interested in it,” said George.

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“This program was the product of extensive consultation with Aboriginal communities throughout the Interior of B.C. as well as a number of community entities that serve Indigenous peoples in the region,” explained Dr. Dennis Silvestrone, Okanagan College’s Director of Continuing Studies and Corporate Training. “The growing need for social and community support workers with a deeper knowledge of the specific challenges facing Indigenous individuals and families prompted us to respond to this training need.”

The full-time program includes course work and a practicum that prepares individuals to step into community support work assisting Indigenous individuals and families, both on- and off- reserve, to enhance their quality of life.

“The program gave me a better understanding of Indigenous history and current issues facing Indigenous communities today,” said George. “If you’re willing to dig deeper and become self-aware of your own biases and values, you can really build on your professional skills. That is when the work becomes more interesting.”

She said that her experience at the college inspired her to pursue additional post-secondary education and has shifted her perspective.

“I now have a much more compassionate and empathetic view on how to support others,” she added.

In preparation for the fall intake, Okanagan College will offer an information session Aug. 14 in Room E105 at the Vernon campus of Okanagan College. The session will provide community members with the opportunity to learn more about the program, ask questions and learn more about financial support options.

The Aboriginal Community Support Worker certificate is just one of the hundreds of Continuing Studies courses and certificates that are offered at Okanagan College campuses.

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