In the midst of family life with six children, Selkirk College student Heather Anderson is building towards a career in nursing through the power of access and affordable close to home post-secondary education.
In her third year of the Castlegar-based Nursing Program, Anderson manages an impressive balance of parenting and academics that most would consider impossible. Assisted by scholarships and bursaries, Anderson is a hard working straight-A student who clearly possesses super-human time management skills to simply make it through any given week.
“After spending many years staying at home raising our babies, and anticipating our youngest starting Kindergarten, I was ready to explore some of the other life experiences that I wanted to have and one of those was developing a career of my own,” says Anderson, who lives just outside of Nelson. “Having more financial independence is an important factor because I want to give my husband some relief in that way. It’s a big commitment to have seven other living bodies to support.”
A trio of remarkable Selkirk College students, Heather Anderson (middle) and daughters Nicola (left) and Michaela (right) are grateful for the assistance provided by donors who provide more than $450,000 in bursaries and scholarships each year.
With all four years delivered locally, learners are able to achieve a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) from the University of Victoria through a partnership that focuses on preparing graduates for vital health care sector positions in rural British Columbia. Without the ability to study in her own backyard, Anderson says taking the bold step into post-secondary at this point in her life would have not been possible.
Equally important for access to quality programming is affordability. Anderson has managed to make her way through the Selkirk College journey with generous assistance from donors who believe in the importance of an educated and skilled workforce. Since starting at Selkirk College, Anderson has received numerous scholarships and bursaries that keep her focused on ultimate outcomes.
“This financial assistance takes away stress and improves my capacity to learn,” says Anderson, who also spent a year in the School of Academic Upgrading gaining entrance requirements. “Because I am not having to struggle every day worrying about how I will afford my next textbook, it gives me a greater ability to perform in class, on tests and in my practicums.”
The Perfect Role Model
Originally from Edmonton, Anderson moved to California after her second year of studies at the University of Alberta where she met future husband Mike. Soon after marriage, the young couple started a family with two girls born 11 months apart. Determined to complete her degree through distance learning, Anderson achieved her Bachelor of Arts degree in 2004 while balancing parenting life.
With a growing family—that that today includes six children between the ages of seven and 19—the Andersons moved to Nelson in 2008. Though life is no less hectic, Anderson’s decision to return to post-secondary was greeted with reverence by her kids.
“She is an amazing mom in so many different ways,” says oldest daughter Michaela. “She is on top of school all the time, it’s quite impressive.”
An outstanding high school athlete, Michaela attended King’s University in Edmonton where she played on the varsity soccer team in 2019-2020. Deciding on a different post-secondary route, she returned to the West Kootenay and is currently taking Selkirk College’s Health Care Assistant Program in the same cohort with younger sister Nicola.
Heather Anderson (left), seen here taking part in a Nursing Program lab pre-pandemic, says that without an affordable post-secondary in her own backyard it would have not been possible to pursue her desired new career.
Both Michaela and Nicola are looking forward to entering the health care sector via the 26-week program that prepares graduates for frontline work. With goals of eventually following in their mom’s academic footsteps in the Nursing Program, the young women continue to be inspired by the elder Anderson’s pace.
“There was a point that I wasn’t even going to go to post-secondary right after high school, but my mom has provided a motivating factor,” says Nicola, who graduated from Nelson’s LV Rogers in 2020. “She pushed me to pick a program and when I see what she is accomplishing, it helped. Now that I am in the program, it is bringing out the best parts about school because I am doing something that really interests me.”
To help afford their education, Michaela has also successfully tapped bursaries and Nicola works part-time three days a week. Sharing in the post-secondary journey together, Heather Anderson reciprocates admiration for staying on task with a busy schedule that also includes community volunteerism.
“It’s been neat to watch the girls and their growing awareness of the daily needs of people in our community,” she says of her daughters’ chosen program of concentration. “It’s very rewarding to hear their conversations while studying together at the dining room table, their perspectives have changed and their thinking has become so much more complex on topics related to the aging population. I’m very proud of them.”
Helping Make Post-Secondary Affordable
Each year, Selkirk College awards more than $450,000 in scholarships and bursaries. Students in all programs benefit from the kindness of donors who contribute significantly to overall outcomes by increasing access for those who might not have a chance to build careers through post-secondary.
As with everything they do, the tight-knit Anderson family us fully on board mom's academic pursuits.
Set to graduate in April 2022, Heather Anderson concedes that balancing school with a busy home life is filled with challenges. She credits the support of her husband and kids in propelling her forward toward her goals. Anderson’s excitement to learn and passion to work hard undoubtably contributes to her success.
“I would encourage other students contemplating continuing their studies to take a serious look at Selkirk College. If I can do it, they can too,” she says. “With flexibility, perseverance and organizational skills, it's completely possible to succeed. The college has a wonderful array of resources that are available to support students, bursaries and scholarships are an important part.”