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Learning Foundation opens doors of education in Vernon

New downtown space available for students, teachers, counsellors
Directors of the Okanagan Learning Foundation welcome students, teachers and counsellors to use the new downtown space in support of youth. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)

Stephanie Erickson

OKLF Communication Officer

Since feeding growing brains and bodies for the last six years, a local charity has opened its doors to deliver even more support to students.

The Okanagan Learning Foundation (OKLF), based in Vernon, has been operating in the Okanagan supporting the nutrition, mental health, and education of youth in collaboration with schools, health clinics, and community resource centres.

OKLF opened their new office doors to teachers, principals and community members late last year. The event was widely attended as folks came to see the new office space and left with ideas sparking in their minds on how to use the space for creative learning and teaching activities.

Some teachers have already been using the space.

Clarence Fulton Secondary teacher Al Gee reached out to OKLF executive director Stephanie Hewson to book the downtown space for a unique learning activity with his senior students. Using bicycles bought with the help of a $2,000 donation from the OKLF, the students headed out into the community to investigate the successes and struggles of our town. Keeping a photo journal as they went, students took note of what felt to them like evidence of failing or thriving aspects of the community. Afterwards, students met back at the OKLF office to discuss their findings and receive further instructions.

While there, one student requested a photo with OKLF director Hewson, recognizing the OKLF as evidence of a thriving community and something to mention in her assignment.

Gee shares that the students “recognized that this classroom, and the work that Steph does is a powerful community builder. A little glue to strengthen the fabric of Vernon… Today was a good day to be teaching.”

It is Hewson’s hope that as more educators become aware of the space, more teachers will utilize the space with their classes.

“Teachers have great ideas and they’re doing amazing things with their students that bring them out into the community and sometimes after you’ve done that field trip or that project that has them in groups throughout the community, you need that rallying point to then debrief, or explain the next step; the Okanagan Learning Foundation office space is ideal for that.”

The space is also available for teachers to meet and collaborate.

“I would like this to be a place where teachers from different high schools — because there are six high schools in our district — could come together and work in the boardroom, or if they need a space off campus, this is a perfect location. We searched high and low for a location as centrally located as possible.”

The space is also available for tutoring sessions, something Hewson wished was around during her time as a teacher.

“The number of times I had tutors come and ask, ‘hey could I use your classroom after school to meet with a student?’”

Now there is space, equipped with tables and chairs for homework or tutoring sessions, comfy couches, a small kitchen space, a boardroom for meetings, and a private office for counselling sessions. There is no cost for using the space.

It’s a meeting space, a workspace, a whatever-people-dedicated-to-continual-learning-need-it-to-be space.

“Students, counsellors, teachers, tutors, anything that revolves around education, mental health, and food security for youth, here you’ve got a safe space to come and work on it,” said Hewson.

For more information visit

READ MORE: Foundation feeds educational needs in Vernon

READ MORE: Children create connection with North Okanagan book


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Jennifer Smith

About the Author: Jennifer Smith

Vernon has always been my home, and I've been working at The Morning Star since 2004.
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