Community foundation fund for First Nations education gets big boost

The Community Foundation of the South Okanagan Similkameen got a big boost for one it’s special funds this month.

The Community Foundation of the South Okanagan Similkameen got a big boost for one it’s special funds this month.

An anonymous donor dedicated $10,000 to the South Okanagan First Nations Education Fund, which was set up by long-time supporters of the foundation with the hopes it would inspire others in the community to donate to the fund and increase support for aboriginal youth in the region.

This is the second large dedication from anonymous donors this year, an uncommon event according to the foundation’s executive director, Aaron McRann. Usually it only happens once every year or two, he estimates.

This particular donation, he said, is a clear demonstration of how the community foundation concept is supposed to work.

The original donors had spent time working with First Nations in the northern region of Canada and saw the need to support aboriginal youth and felt the best way to do this was to create bursaries for local aboriginal students.

The newest anonymous donor to this education fund was already an avid supporter of aboriginal projects through the foundation. When they read about the South Okanagan First Nations Education Fund, they felt it was the perfect opportunity to add to an already great program for aboriginal youth.

“That’s the idea, to bring a big group together to support a common cause,” said McRann. “These two donors don’t know each other, but they have come together in a very powerful way to create meaningful change in the community.”

In 2013, the South Okanagan First Nations Education Fund supported a local single-parent aboriginal male who works while going to school to aid him in attending Okanagan College. The new donation, according to McRann, will allow the foundation to double the support they can give, not only for next year, but every year.

According to the 2013 Vital Signs Report, published by the Community Foundation, the six-year completion rate for aboriginal students has increased to 66 per cent in 2012 from 60 per cent  (2011) in the Okanagan Skaha School District, which is above the B.C. average of 57 per cent.

McRann said he isn’t sure why some donors want to remain anonymous but he thinks most are quiet individuals who aren’t comfortable receiving accolades for doing what they see as the right thing to do.

“Their desire is to make a difference and that’s all, to make a difference in a quiet way,” said McRann.

Since 2011, the Foundation has allocated over $13,000 in bursaries to local students in the South Okanagan and Similkameen. For more information about the Community Foundation’s Bursary program please visit www.cfso.net/grants/apply-for-a-bursary.