Central Okanagan Public Schools is assisting with the distribution of a donation of $500 to every Grade 12 graduating student in the school district. (File photo)

Central Okanagan Grade 12 grads get $500 surprise

Anonymous donor gifts $500 to every Grade 12 student

Grade 12 students in the Central Okanagan School District will receive an unexpected $500 cash gift from anonymous Kelowna donors.

The school district has emailed a letter to eligible recipients with a letter from the donors, identified only as ‘Lance and Tammy.’

The email states in part: “Congratulations on making it through these last 16 months of extremely challenging times! We applaud you for overcoming the many obstacles you have faced from online learning, condensed semesters, less time with friends, cancellation of sports and very non-traditional graduation ceremonies and celebrations.

“We want you to know how proud your community is of each and every one of you for persevering in these unprecedented times and succeeding!

“As recognition of your efforts, we will be gifting $500 to each Grade 12 student in School District 23.”

Moyra Baxter, chair of the Central Okanagan Public School board of education, said she has never come across such a magnanimous donation in all her experience with public education as a parent and long-time school trustee.

“We were approached by someone wanting to do this and once we determined it was a legitimate thing, we began to look at how this could be done,” Baxter said.

“I talked to (Ryan Stierman, school district secretary-treasurer) about it and neither of us have ever heard it being done before beyond the normal bursary and scholarship, or something like that,” she added, noting the donation will amount to more than $1 million and impact about 2,000 students.

Baxter acknowledged the donation to each student is to do with it as they see fit and not tied to any post-secondary studies.

The email to parents further states: “Please use the funds where you see fit, whether it be put towards your education, tools or personal protective equipment for the trades or mental health needs.”

Stierman told the Capital News the donation has been in the works for several weeks, with the school district offering its infrastructure to help facilitate the transactions, but the donor is directly overseeing distribution of the cash.

“The donations will start going out in the coming weeks but there is no definitive timeline on that at this point…If students can receive the funds via e-transfer it will be quicker and easier than by cheque,” he said.

While Stierman said the identity of the donors may not be hard to unmask on social media, it was their desire to remain anonymous from the outset

“That was because they didn’t want the attention on them, to make this about them. They truly want this to be about recognizing the students and the challenges they have faced in the past year,” said Stierman.