ALBERTA - In the midst of a global pandemic that has affected the lives and livelihoods of people around the world, Alberta’s colleges have been leading the way to support their local communities and the unique challenges they are facing.
From donating health and personal protective equipment, to organizing food drives and fundraising for students, Alberta’s 11 publicly-funded Comprehensive Community Colleges (CCCs) have demonstrated the care that makes them an essential and responsive part of the communities they serve.
Fighting COVID-19 requires the full efforts of Alberta’s health care system, and Alberta’s colleges have stepped up with donations to support those on the front lines. Red Deer College’s Centre for Innovation in Manufacturing is making disposable Prusa face masks that are being distributed and used by front-line workers – an innovative project enabled through the Alberta Additive Manufacturing Network, which is currently incubating at RDC.
Many other institutions also ensured medical equipment on their campuses made its way to medical professionals. Portage College donated ventilators to its local health unit, Lakeland College loaned hospital beds and wheelchairs to the Lloydminster Hospital in addition to donating supplies to seniors’ homes and group homes for persons with disabilities.
The giving spirit extended beyond just medical supplies, as many CCCs organized food and donation drives to support those affected financially by the crisis. Each week, Olds College has delivered over 100 pounds of fresh produce from its greenhouse, as well as products from its retail meat store, to Mountain View Food Bank.
"During these unprecedented times it is important we support our neighbours and communities," says Stuart Cullum, Olds College President. "While moving our entire learning environment to remote delivery, Olds College staff and faculty also used their expertise to help several local organizations. I couldn't be more proud of their kindness and hard work to support our community."
Another way Alberta’s colleges are supporting their communities is by finding innovative ways to support those in need. Lethbridge College launched its $1 million Ready to Rise campaign to support students. Funds raised will contribute to both financial aid and mental health resources for students in need. NorQuest College recognized the need for front-line workers to have available child care, and opened its 1,000 Women Child Care Centre, with necessary safety precautions, to support those families.
Medicine Hat College Art and Design students are offering services like branding, communications, design, social media support, interactive media and website or app development to groups who need help to navigate challenges resulting from the pandemic. Northern Lakes College is offering several free training courses to help serve its community, such as Leading during Turbulent Times and Introduction to Zoom.
Meanwhile, Grande Prairie Regional College launched the “GPRC Cares” initiative with two key focuses – a mental health strategy for GPRC staff, students and the broader community; and a community outreach program to assist those in need during the COVID-19 crisis. The community outreach has included food drives, leading to $6,000+ worth of donations and letter writing campaigns for seniors experiencing isolation and loneliness.
“GPRC knows how deeply the response to this global pandemic has affected organizations, businesses and individual families in our communities and we want to make sure GPRC is part of helping people through these challenging times,” says Dr. Robert Murray, Grande Prairie Regional College President and CEO. “We could not have accomplished this without the support of the communities we serve, and the GPRC Cares initiative is some small ways in which GPRC can show it cares and can give back.”
In Fort McMurray, Keyano College has been affected by the devastating flood that has ravaged the city. However, it hasn’t stopped the Keyano community from giving back. Employees volunteered to distribute water to students, staff and evacuees. Before the floods, Keyano was manufacturing mask anchors for front-line workers and held a virtual food drive. Two communities served by Northern Lakes College also experienced flooding and the college is providing a facility to the Fort Vermilion School Division, who has been affected by the flood in the community of Fort Vermilion.
Stepping up when their communities are in need is just another way Alberta’s colleges show the integral role they play in Alberta.
Alberta’s 11 Comprehensive Community Colleges (Bow Valley College, Grande Prairie Regional College, Keyano College, Lakeland College, Lethbridge College, Medicine Hat College, NorQuest College, Northern Lakes College, Olds College, Portage College and Red Deer College) meet the needs of more than 55,000 learners across the entire province, providing relevant, high-quality programs that benefit both local and provincial economies.
This is the second of a three-part look at the role of Alberta’s colleges during the COVID-19 pandemic:
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Senior Communications Specialist, Lethbridge College