Every Saturday morning, 24-year-old Kody Woodmass takes part in the Ki-Low-Na Friendship Society’s Saturday Outreach Breakfast, which delivers hot meals to approximately 100 people.
The meal brings a smile to many peoples’ faces. For Woodmass, helping create positive moments for people living on the streets, however small, drives him to continue using his skills to make a difference.
“There is a huge stigma around homelessness and my goal is to end that stigma,” said Woodmass, who is in his third year of the Business Administration program at the Kelowna campus of Okanagan College.
“There are all sorts of individuals who experience homelessness from families fleeing violence to seniors who are living off CPP and miss a payment. If I were to miss one or two paycheques I could be in the same situation.”
Understanding the importance of community support is something Woodmass knows firsthand. He was able to cover his first semester of college through his savings but since then has worked full time while going to school.
Finding it difficult to cover the costs of school and living, Woodmass was debating whether to graduate with a two-year diploma or continue on to purse a four-year business degree.
That’s when a colleague of his who was also an Okanagan College student suggested he apply for student awards.
Woodmass received two student awards that semester, and two more the following year, enabling him to pursue his goal of a Bachelor of Business Administration. Woodmass will be graduating next year.
“These awards are the reason I’m still at Okanagan College, otherwise my studies would have ended sooner,” Woodmass said.
Woodmass is already applying his business skills to the real world. As an Aboriginal Outreach Worker with Ki-Low-Na Friendship Society, he is developing an employment program for people living on the streets. The Clean Up Group is modelled after a successful social enterprise in Vancouver and teaches both on-the-job and soft skills to help people gain confidence and experience in order to find full-time employment.
Woodmass was one of approximately 330 students who received scholarships and bursaries at three awards receptions hosted by Okanagan College.
The first event took place in Penticton Nov. 13, followed by Vernon, Nov. 14 and Kelowna’s event took place on Thursday.
The award receptions are an opportunity for people in the community who set up scholarships to meet the students and learn firsthand how the financial support is helping them succeed in school.
In total, more than 750 awards valued at nearly $600,000 were handed out to Okanagan College students.
“We are thankful to all donors who have created student awards for our growing student base,” said Okanagan College President Jim Hamilton.