An essential community in the Selkirk College learning corridor for five decades, the purchase of the building that houses the Trail Campus opens a new chapter of exciting possibility and future growth in the Lower Columbia and Boundary regions.
The Greater Trail Community Centre building located at the corner of Cedar and Helena streets has been home to Selkirk College programming since 1988. The Regional District of Kootenay Boundary (RDKB) is selling the building to the college for one dollar. With a $1 million investment by the Province of British Columbia to fund building and technology upgrades, the campus will strengthen the opportunity for learners’ success.
Students and staff were joined by community leaders on June 10 for the announcement that the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary is selling the Greater Trail Community Centre to Selkirk College for $1. The purchase allows the college to build upon the offerings currently available in the downtown campus.
“The City of Trail and surrounding communities of the Lower Columbia place a high value on local, accessible post-secondary education,” says Selkirk College President Maggie Matear. “The number of students and the delivery of programs at the Trail Campus is growing. We are excited to have the opportunity to continue to build on the success of the campus as we develop courses and programs that will enhance the educational landscape in the heart of this wonderful city and neighbouring communities.”
Poised for Growth in the Lower Columbia
Selkirk College first opened its doors in 1966 at the Castlegar Campus and established a presence in Trail when it purchased Mrs. Cook’s Business College in 1972. First located in the Royal Canadian Legion building on Victoria Street, the college quickly added adult basic education to its offerings. Over the decades, Selkirk College has provided a variety of programs in downtown Trail that respond to the changing employment market needs and shifting demographics of the Lower Columbia communities.
“This is a really important milestone for Selkirk College because it gives us the ability to better meet the needs in the southern end of our region,” says Rhys Andrews, Selkirk College’s vice president of education. “Now that the college will be the owner/operator, it gives us greater flexibility and opportunity for planning on that campus. It allows us to confidently plan for the future at all our locations knowing that the Trail Campus will be an integral component.”
Selkirk College President Maggie Matear told the assembled crowd of regional leaders that the purchase of the building will be an important part of offering accessible post-secondary education across the region.
The purchase of the campus building is the latest step in a growing post-secondary presence in the Lower Columbia over the last decade. In September 2019, the new Digital Fabrication & Design Program found a home on the Trail Campus, joining the Academic Upgrading Program, Health Care Assistant Program, Steps to Opportunities, Academics & Readiness (SOAR) Program, and Community Education & Workplace Training courses. In 2018, the Selkirk Technology Access Centre (STAC) located on Highway Drive transitioned from the MIDAS Lab to become a vital part of the college’s research and innovation arm.
Starting in 2023, the new two-year Practical Nursing Program will begin welcoming cohorts of between 16 and 24 students to the Trail Campus. A push by the Provincial Government to address human resource needs with the region’s health care sector, the Practical Nursing Program will fit perfectly into the campus that is currently home to the Health Care Assistant Program and Outreach Street Nursing component of the four-year Bachelor of Science in Nursing Program that is based out of the Castlegar Campus.
Building Student Success and Changing Lives
Kelsey Guesford grew up in Trail and credits access post-secondary, and the people at her local campus who work hard on behalf of learners, with a profound change in direction. She moved back to her hometown in 2016 after a difficult period of her life that was full of challenges.
“In March of 2017, out of spite, I went to Selkirk College with the belief that I was going to fail and enrolled in the Academic Upgrading Program for the third time to obtain my Adult Dogwood Diploma,” says Guesford.
Selkirk College alumna Kelsey Guesford is one of the many learners who found a deep connection to education at the Trail Campus and has used the right start to further her career aspirations.
Instead of failure, she found hope through the kindness of the instructors who provided Guesford with a new spark for learning. Motivated academically, she graduated with her high school diploma and then moved onto the Castlegar Campus to take the Human Services Diploma Program where she specialized in Child & Youth Care. Graduating with honours, Guesford is now in the final year of her studies at the University of Victoria where she will earn a Bachelor Degree in Child & Youth Care.
Studying part-time through UVic’s online programming, Guesford lives in Trail and currently works in a group home with adults who have special needs. She is also a facilitator for a new program called Bridges Out of Poverty which offers mentorship to under-resourced individuals in the community to help them escape from poverty.
“The instructors at the Trail Campus showed me what it was like to have people not give up on you, because as long as I kept trying they wouldn’t let me fail,” she says of her post-secondary start. “None of what I have accomplished to this point would be possible without the programs and people at the Trail Campus. If my story and academic journey can give one person hope that they too can achieve the impossible, then I will have made a difference.”
A Proud Member of the Community
To go along with the new programming and opportunities, one of the foundational strengths of the campus will continue to connect with a broad range of local learners. The Community Education & Workplace Training courses that have been offered at the Trail Campus range from babysitter training and first aid to fruit tree pruning and workshops on board development, will continue to provide steady access for the entire community.
“The purchase of the building is tremendous news for both the college and the community,” says Carol Currie, the Trail Campus coordinator for Community Education & Workplace Training. “We will continue to provide people of this region with opportunities for continuous learning that enhances our work lives, keeps us safe and healthy, enriches our organizations, and feeds our minds and souls.”
RDKB Chair Linda Worley said that the sale to Selkirk College is a "gesture laden with community spirit" and was pleased to see the building move into its next phase of life.
The tenants in the Greater Trial Community Centre—the Bailey Theatre, VISAC Gallery, Trail Gymnastics Club and the Trail & District Arts Council—will all remain important pieces of what is currently at the building.
“All of our campus locations have a distinct character and the Trail Campus is a terrific example,” says Andrews. “With a downtown location just a block away from the banks of the Columbia River, this is a beautiful and exciting place to learn. We are very much looking forward to students and staff helping add even more vibrancy to the community in the years to come.”
The Trail Campus building was constructed in 1923 as the Trail Technical School which was for Grades 9 to 12. When J.L. Crowe Secondary opened in 1952, the building was home to the Trail Junior High School until 1983. The building remained vacant for three years until the RDKB invested $3 million into a renovation project that culminated in the re-opening in 1988.