Muskens: Alumni Awards go to truly inspiring people

Make time to be inspired by others who give back to the community.

I’ve always admired people who give back; especially those who, no matter how busy they are, find the time to make a difference.

This is why I’m always so interested in the annual recipients of the Okanagan College Alumni awards.

The association has two awards: One is the Distinguished Alumni Award, which honours someone who demonstrates excellence in leadership, the environment, business or industry, public and community service, the arts and may have provided support to Okanagan College.

The other award is a Young Alumni Award, which is for a recent graduate under the age of 35 who has had a successful start in their career and/or is positively contributing to their community.

This year’s awards also mark the 50th anniversary of Okanagan College and the Alumni Association and is why the association is celebrating 50 years of alumni excellence at a special event on June 12 at the Kelowna campus.

After 20 years of working at Okanagan College, I know our graduates end up all over the world, many doing some amazing things so it can’t be easy deciding who gets these awards, especially for the 50th anniversary.

This year’s recipients showcase a very distinguished alumna, Lane Shupe, who graduated from Okanagan College’s Certified Dental Assistant program in 1982. That’s 33 years ago and she is still active with the program  regularly sponsoring and attending their graduate tea.

But Lane’s commitment to the community is much larger than her promotion of the program. Here is a women who, since 1980, has been involved in the United Way, the BC Children’s Hospital, the Okanagan Symphony, the Kelowna Art Gallery, the Kelowna Chamber of Commerce, the Central Okanagan Heritage Society, Kelowna General Hospital Foundation, the B.C. Cancer Foundation plus much more. She is clearly someone who is dedicated in helping her community.

The recipient of the Young Alumni Award is Donnie Ungaro. Donnie graduated from OUC’s Bachelor of Business Administration degree in 2003.

What is really interesting about Donnie is how much of his work is focused on young people. Kelowna is a city that doesn’t have a problem attracting seniors but falls short when it comes to retaining young people. Although this has changed in the last 10 years, much work still needs to be done and Donnie, who works for the Central Okanagan Economic Development Commission, is tasked with making this happen.

Since he assumed this role he has created and launched a number of initiatives under the Okanagan Young Professionals (OYP) Collective. These include timeDRIVE (services for non-profits), motionball (fund raising for Special Olympics), TEDxKelowna, Appetite for Art (fundraising for the Art Gallery), Growing Chefs, Okanagan Start up Week, Faculty Connection Club (networking), and more.

The OYP Collective, for example, supports up to 17 community groups in the area, giving young adults a chance to participate in all sorts of community endeavours.

Both of these recipients will be speaking at the event on June 12, which I suspect will be very engaging. If you need to be inspired, mark your calendar for this date, I don’t think you will be disappointed.



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