Julie Dorsey and her son Noah at OC. Image: Contributed

FEATURE: Keeping it all in the family

Kelowna: Graduation becomes a family affair as Lake Country mom receives her Okanagan College degree

Celebrations will be abundant in the Dorsey family household as a mother and son duo crossed different college graduation stages on Saturday.

“I had set a personal goal of graduating college at the same time as my third child Noah would be graduating from high school,” says Julie Dorsey, a mother of three grown children who returned to the classroom after 30 years in the farming business. She is one of the 1,386 Okanagan College students who received their credentials at three ceremonies this weekend in Kelowna.

Dorsey’s journey to complete her Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) Honours degree included some pit stops. She started on the path of getting an education degree then got married, had three children (now aged 30, 26, and 18), and went on to run a poultry farming business for three decades with her husband where they raised 40,000 chickens every eight weeks.

She stepped back in the classrom when they were done with the farming business, which enabled her to make a college education her primary focus.

“Just because I got married young, doesn’t mean I had to forgo the opportunities that education brings,” says Lake Country resident Dorsey. “If I didn’t finish my degree, I’d regret that. I am so glad I persevered.”

That perseverance resulted in Dorsey making the Dean’s list every semester. She was also awarded the Honours Prize for Progressing Non-profit Excellence: a $1,500 award founded by alumna Amanda Wright.

“Coming into the program, I was worried about how I would engage in my studies while also running a business, and how I would connect with other students who would be closer to my children’s ages,” she says. “Starting at the smaller Vernon campus afforded me a gentle start.

“I thought I’d feel more competent because of our years in business, but farming is unique. I learned that the complexities of the business world were much greater than what we did on the farm.”

Dorsey wanted to apply those learned complexities to the non-profit sector, especially after having volunteered her time on various boards, events, and at her church. Even before having her degree in hand, she has been hired as an assistant property manager at the Society of Hope in Kelowna.

“After a successful farming career, I am working by choice and I wanted a job that would give me purpose,” Dorsey explains. “In my non-profit management course, our professor, Kerry Rempel, had said that the sector needs the skills that we are building here at OC, and that’s what inspired me to go into that field.”

Always a mother, Dorsey can’t help but recount the unique experience of going to College simultaneously with her Grade 12 son Noah, who is taking the carpentry pre-apprenticeship program at Okanagan College for dual credit while finishing high school at George Elliot Secondary.

“It was neat, and helped me feel connected as a parent,” she explains. “By going to College together, we could have conversations about the experience and I was able to ask him pointed questions.”

One of her most memorable education-meets-family moments was having her son, and parents, attend her Honours presentation.

“That’s when things really came full-circle for me,” she says.

“We provide access to education to help students fulfill their career goals, and foster their passion for learning,” says Jim Hamilton, president of Okanagan College. “Our learners come from diverse backgrounds and communities and we celebrate all of their success. On behalf of Okanagan College I commend each of our 2017 graduates on their achievements.”

This weekend’s ceremonies were three of the seven ceremonies held by Okanagan College this year. The first took place in January and an additional three ceremonies will be held later in June. More than 2,140 students will have graduated from Okanagan College in 2017 before the end of the month.