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College grad's experience of finishing studies during pandemic

Ready to help other students

An Okanagan College Vernon graduate is sharing her experience of becoming an education assistant during the COVID-19 pandemic.

When Toby Griffin, 48, took the leap of going back to school, she did not anticipate finishing her studies during a pandemic. 

Education Assistants (EAs) help students achieve their educational goals. Griffin is one of 27 new Okanagan College EA graduates who has taken the time to show appreciation for how their instructor helped them meet their own educational goals.

Graduates from the Vernon program participated in a social distanced informal graduation on June 19 to recognize their achievements. The celebration was held at a Vernon acreage which belongs to the family of Karissa Goodrum, an EA graduate.

Griffen was the one to give the student address.

“I’m a proud mother of five children and I’ve always been passionate about supporting young learners,” she says. “I’ve been a Montessori pre-school teacher, a basketball coach, and held others roles in the community. It felt like it was my time to be able to go back to school to do this, to continue putting my love for education and supporting learners to work, and, hopefully, to inspire others around me to pursue their dreams.”

Griffen notes that despite the pandemic bringing challenges to learning, it brought the students together and taught invaluable lessons to them moving forward.

“Now that we’re finished, I can definitely say I appreciate the experience so much more and took so much more away from it. I have a much deeper appreciation for children in the school system who have exceptionalities. I think we’ll all be better EAs for experiencing what we went through as learners during the pandemic,” says Griffin.

“We really built a bond as a team and I know we’ll collaborate for a lifetime as professionals. It was very special that we could take this opportunity to have a kind of grad ceremony, to celebrate each other for making it through, for supporting one another, and to reflect on what we’ve all accomplished.”

The class's lead instructor Michelle Howe also celebrates the class's achievements during these unprecedented times.

“This truly was a special group of students. They faced the challenges that came their way, transitioned to online learning without missing a beat and supported each other in ways that left me so inspired and amazed,” she says.

Education Assistants are in high demand in B.C., says the college, which offers the certificate program at the Vernon, Kelowna, Penticton, Salmon Arm and Revelstoke locations.





Vernon council encouraging citizens to make noise in lieu of fireworks

Make some noise for Canada

Vernon city council is asking residents to take part in a noise making Canada Day celebration.

Council is asking residents to bang pots and pans from their homes at 9 p.m. on Canada Day, which will be replacing the annual fireworks display. The city says the fireworks show won't be going forward because of provincial health guidelines and to avoid large gatherings.

If you are really hoping to catch some fireworks on our nation's birthday, the City of Enderby announced they will be going forward with their fireworks display, but city staff are asking viewers to watch the show from their vehicles or homes.



Dancing with the Vernon Stars is cancelled due to COVID-19

The stars won't dance

The North Okanagan Hospice Society has announced that Dancing with the Vernon Stars has been cancelled due to COVID-19 restrictions.

The gala was postponed to later in the fall back in April in hopes that the event would still be able to go forward, which was originally slated to happen on September 25. With crowd size limitations, social distancing measures and public safety concerns, the Hospice's annual show will not go on.

"As the COVID-19 situation evolves, North Okanagan Hospice Society continues to operate in accordance
with public health and safety guidelines. Our top priority is to protect the health and well-being of everyone
involved as well as the community at large," says Ruth Edwards, Executive Director of NOHS. "We are truly
grateful to all of the dance teams, sponsors, suppliers, dance coaches and patrons for their enthusiasm in
wanting to be part of our marquee fundraiser. We appreciate their support, cooperation and patience as we
made this very difficult decision."

Dancing with the Vernon Stars has contributed in a big way toward the NOHS's $600,000 annual operations for the past 12 years, raising more than $700,000 over the years to help out the community.

"It is an essential service and continues to provide quality end-of-life care for the residents of the North Okanagan during the COVID-19 pandemic," says Edwards. "Please follow us on Facebook or visit our website for information about ways in which you can continue to support end of life care in our community through a donation to Hospice."

Donations can be made online on the NOHS wesbite, and for additional information on Dancing with the Vernon Stars you can email Edwards at [email protected].





New pickleball academy for kids is coming to Vernon this week

Want to play pickleball?

There is a new pickleball academy coming to Vernon this week for kids who are interested in trying out the sport.

The program will be four weeks long with lessons that run for an hour and a half once a week, and will take place at the Okanagan Wealth Advisors Pickleball Complex. Each session will allow for eight students to take part, and they will be divided in to age groups.

"The Vernon Pickleball Association is extremely fortunate to be working with IPTPA certified instructors, Rebecca (Beck) Hackman and Mike (Botts) Botterill, to develop this new youth program," says Anne Longley, spokesperson for the VPA. "Their aim is to establish pickleball for youth in the Okanagan while focusing on the three F’s of pickleball: fun, friendship and fitness."

The first junior academy date begins July 3 from 12:30 p.m. to 2 p.m., and runs until July 25. The cost for the four weeks of lessons is $63, and the deadline to register is July 3.

To sign up for the junior pickleball academy, you can email [email protected].



Some areas in the BX will have water shut off for repairs

Water shut off to fix break

A major water main in the BX area is under emergency repairs after a main broke, resulting in a water shutoff.

Some areas in the BX will be without water effective Tuesday evening, and should the water remain high, a second area may have to be shut off as well.

Customers in the area should be prepared for 24 hours without water by filling up jugs to store for drinking water. Agricultural water services are also being turned off to limit flows and industrial users are asked to reduce water usage as much as they can.

The water main break is near the beginning of the distribution system, which means most Vernon water customers will be served by one source instead of two. To ease the strain on the system, Vernon residents are asked to reduce their water usage as much as possible.

Crews attempted to fix the break earlier Tuesday morning, but were unable to due to high water use. The City of Vernon estimates the repair should be fixed by Thursday morning, but Greater Vernon Water is asking customers to not use water for outdoor purposes until Friday.

To see if you are affected by the shutoff, you can visit the RDNO website.



Heavy rainfall in Vernon leads to water buildup on downtown roads

Roads pooling downtown

The heavy rainfall in the North Okanagan have led to some water pooling on city streets.

The Highway 97 and 25th Avenue intersection has a significant water buildup, and it was over ankle-deep in some places. Highway 97 had the largest amount of water pooling, and while 25th Avenue had some water, it wasn't nearly as deep.

"City crews have closed a portion of the road at 24th Avenue and 34A Street due to localized flooding in that area," says the City of Vernon in a press release. "Motorists are asked to slow down while travelling, as various streets may be experiencing flooding where the storm sewer system has been temporarily overwhelmed."

AIM Roads has also issued a warning of pooling water on Highways 97, 97A, 97B and 6 in the North Okanagan. The alert has been issued for the Vernon, Armstrong, Enderby, Falkland and Lumby areas.



Polson Park in Vernon closed to vehicle traffic due to flooding

Polson Park underwater

Polson Park is now closed to vehicle traffic effective immediately due to flooding on Vernon Creek.

The gates on either end of the park are closed until further notice. The park will remain open to pedestrian and cyclists, but the City of Vernon is asking patrons of the park to stay off of the turf and to steer clear of the water and creek banks.

"Environment Canada is forecasting rain showers to continue this evening, so residents should practice extreme caution around all local creeks, as they may surge unexpectedly," says the City of Vernon in a press release. "City crews have closed a portion of the road at 24th Avenue and 34A Street due to localized flooding in that area."

City crews are inspecting manhole covers throughout the city that may have been dislodged from the rain.

Motorists are asked to be cautious and slow down while driving due to flooding on the roads, because some streets may have pooling water from overwhelmed storm sewers.

To stay up to date on the flooding situation, you can visit the City of Vernon's website.



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