Opinion Column

Careers and College: Community support for Algonquin College

Jamie Bramburger

By Jamie Bramburger, Special to The Daily Observer

Algonquin College's Waterfront Campus in Pembroke, Ont.

Algonquin College's Waterfront Campus in Pembroke, Ont.

Algonquin College is turning 50 years old in 2017 and public support for the campus has never been better. In recent weeks, new endowments have been established to support students in financial need at the campus, construction is continuing on another student residence to support the college’s growing out of town student population and more than 200 women attended a Girls’ Night Out fundraiser at the Waterfront Campus.

After five decades of serving the Upper Ottawa Valley, the college has come of age and the community fully understands its importance to Renfrew County’s future. Perhaps, Pembroke Mayor Mike LeMay said it best when the college held a 50th anniversary kick-off event at the Champlain Trail Museum, saying, “Now, more than ever, the college is critical to our region as we face labour market challenges brought on by an aging population. The infusion of young people into our community as a result of the college being here is vital and has created significant economic spinoffs for the city.”

How great is that impact? Well, more than 50 per cent of the students who attend the Waterfront Campus now come from out of town. It’s why the former college campus on Pembroke Street, the once empty Lakeside Medical Clinic and the new apartment building under construction on Lake Street near the Pembroke Memorial Centre, have been purposefully renovated or built to accommodate student housing needs.

From humble beginnings in 1967 with only a handful of students to approximately 1,000 students each fall, the campus growth has had a profound impact on Pembroke, spurring all kinds of new business opportunities, while helping the city grow its tax base and creating more access for local residents to access post-secondary education.

That’s where the need for more financial aid bursaries comes into play. While the Ontario government has made some progressive changes in supporting low income families with its new free tuition policy, there are still hundreds of students who study at the campus who need additional financial support.

In the past few years, several families, businesses and organizations have set up endowments. Most recently, the family of Larry Scales, a retired Forestry Technician teacher who passed away last year, established a memorial bursary in his name. After raising more than $24,000 this year alone, the Girls’ Night Out committee used the funds raised at its sell-out event to create a bursary to annually support a woman who attends the Waterfront Campus, and Business program alumnus and Canadian recording artist, Jason Blaine, has also announced he will be creating an endowment for college students.

These generous gifts are truly appreciated by the students and the college. It helps the college to fulfil its overarching goal of supporting students to be successful in their academic studies and to be career ready when the graduate.

Yes, 50 years is a significant milestone. It’s enough time to be fully integrated into a community, just like the founder of the Ontario College system, former Premier Bill Davis, envisioned when he established Algonquin College with a mandate for a regional campus in Pembroke.

Jamie Bramburger is the manager of community and student affairs at Algonquin College’s Waterfront Campus. You can follow Jamie on Twitter @brambuj or email him at brambuj@algonquincollege.com