I am very impressed by the work of a local group called rural post-secondary education committee (RPEC) in Burns Lake.
After the College of New Caledonia decided to transfer the family programs offered in Burns Lake – putting an end to the hub model of service that successfully operated in the area for over 20 years – RPEC decided it was time to take action.
They have since been trying to create a new education model in Burns Lake. One of the ideas was to attract a college that would match our community needs. Well, they now believe they are onto something.
RPEC and our six local First Nations groups are currently having discussions with the Nicola Valley Institute of Technology (NVIT), an Aboriginal public post-secondary institute which currently has campuses in Merritt and Burnaby.
The idea is to create a rural campus of NVIT in Burns Lake.
If this plan goes through, this could be very exciting news for Burns Lake. One of the benefits will be the creation of new jobs and the positive impact that this will have in our local economy.
The second and most important benefit is that this new college has the potential to fill the current gaps in services offered to vulnerable families.
Lakes District News recently wrote a story about the high number of vulnerable children in Burns Lake. According to a new report by the Human Early Learning Partnership, the percentage of vulnerable children in the area is significantly higher than the provincial average.
Although Burns Lake has not had a meaningful change in the long-term trend, it has seen a meaningful increase in vulnerability over the past few years.
When asked what needs to be done to address this issue, Scott Zayac, RPEC member and executive director of the Lakes District Family Enhancement Society, said more programming is needed in the region that help support vulnerable women and families.
“Any program that helps improve the quality of life for mothers is a key part of improving the outcomes for infants and children,” he said. “There are many gaps for programming that supports high-risk moms and families [in Burns Lake].”
However, it is hard to predict what would happen to the College of New Caledonia (CNC) if a new college campus is built in Burns Lake. Lakes District News has also asked this question to CNC president Henry Reiser, but he said it was too soon to answer the question since it hasn’t been confirmed that a new college will actually be built in Burns Lake.
I would like to believe that there is room for both colleges, and that maybe one college would complement the other.
Either way, I am pleased that a group of local residents if fighting to ensure that all families have access to education and social programming.
Once again this shows the resilience of this community and why there are plenty of reasons to believe that there is opportunity here.