Only a few years since he walked the hallways of the Castlegar Campus and still on an educational journey towards his ultimate goal, Selkirk College alumnus Darren Paterson is giving back to the community that holds a special place in his heart.
Now a PhD student at York University in Toronto, Paterson graduated with a two-year Associate of Arts diploma from Selkirk College in 2016. Having received the generosity of donors while taking his own first steps in post-secondary, Paterson started a bursary at Selkirk College in hopes of providing the same foundation of support he received.
Selkirk College alumnus Darren Paterson (left) at the Bursary Tea in 2016 where he received financial support from community donors. Now a PhD student at York University, Paterson has started a bursary of his own to support future Selkirk College learners.
“It’s all about trying to propel people onto something bigger,” Paterson says. “Students come into the first couple years of post-secondary and it is scary because it’s something new. But all these students are trying to grow themselves, they're trying to improve. These are people who are training their minds and training their hearts, so that they too can have something to give back.”
Giving Day at Selkirk College is on May 12, a square on the calendar where the post-secondary reaches out to the community for specific needs that will help learners succeed in their educational goals. To help unleash the potential of tomorrow’s leaders, the college has set a target of $32,000 that will be focused towards reducing food insecurity, boosting mental health and wellbeing, supporting Indigenous students, and promoting digital equity.
The 24-hour fundraising challenge is an annual event that calls on the community to give a helping hand to those working to become vital contributing members in a wide variety of careers.
Kootenay Savings Credit Union is one of several community sponsors stepping up to support Giving Day 2022.
“Everyone deserves an equal chance to become the person they want to be, to follow their dreams and build the career they desire,” says Aron Burke, Community Liaison for Kootenay Savings Credit Union. “It’s never been more important to support the health and wellbeing of students so that they persevere in their educational journey and become the future healthcare workers, educators, entrepreneurs, artists, and trade workers that will help our communities thrive.”
An Impossible Task Without Support
Paterson took a shot at post-secondary shortly after graduating from high school with thoughts of becoming a phys-ed teacher. Not convinced of his pathway and quickly out of funds to support his education, he instead spent most of his 20s traveling, working odd jobs and embracing new experiences.
He moved from the west coast of British Columbia to Nelson when he was 29 and had an epiphany. Realizing his true love of literature, he decided on the lofty goal of earning a PhD from the University of Cambridge in England. To get started, he turned to Selkirk College and its excellent Creative Writing Program.
“Selkirk College is very intimate, you are able to build relationships with your instructors and other students,” Paterson says of his two years at the Castlegar Campus. “I have since been to three other universities and it becomes a lot less personal, a lot more detached. That deep compassion that instructors at Selkirk College have, that deep care that they had to help me achieve my goal, I will never forget that time of my life. It gave me a purpose and the focus, where all of a sudden I was really inspired to succeed.”
Darren Paterson attending Selkirk College Convocation 2016.
Outside the classroom, Paterson’s ultimate goal was more precarious. Though an education at Selkirk College is an affordable option, like many students Paterson found himself turning to the Financial Aid Department for support through scholarships and bursaries.
“Support always seemed to arrive at the perfect time, when I was not sure if I was going to be able to pay my electric bill or afford groceries,” he says of the financial struggles. “The way the community comes together to support students really does make a difference. Sometimes it’s just making it through the month that provides the motivation to continue your journey to achieve your goals.”
After graduating from Selkirk College, Paterson earned his Bachelor of Arts from UBC Okanagan and his Masters Degree in English Literature at the University of Victoria. As his own education continued, Paterson and his wife Helen Leaf Black decided to start a bursary at Selkirk College to provide ongoing support for students following in his footsteps. An act of gratitude he felt obliged to try and provide.
He has been accepted twice to the University of Cambridge as a PhD student, but international student tuition is still beyond his reach. Now completing his first year at York University, Paterson received a generous fellowship grant which has provided some measure of financial security.
A proud Selkirk College alumnus, Paterson says his time spent at the Castlegar Campus holds a humungous place in his heart. Not ruling out a future return as an instructor himself, Paterson is committed to paying forward the support he received.
“It’s what makes Selkirk College amazing,” Paterson says. “I came in with a goal, one which was very lofty. The Selkirk College community did everything possible and gave me everything I needed to get that goal started. You wouldn't think that a small rural college could catapult you to those kinds of heights, but they gave me everything I needed for my journey. I believe this is what most students want, to eventually give back and contribute to that community of support.”
You can find out more information on Giving Day 2022 and support Selkirk College students by clicking here.