Rossland's Brenna Mackay and Clara Graves are Valedictorians for Selkirk College's 50th Graduating Class

Bob Hall
By Bob Hall
April 25th, 2017

A pair of locally raised Selkirk College students will represent the 50th graduating class as valedictorians at this year’s Graduation 2017 ceremony on the Castlegar Campus.

Charged with delivering the final addresses to their peers, Brenna Mackay and Clara Graves are outstanding students who have made the most of their time at Selkirk College. Both raised in the Rossland area, Mackay and Graves add a touch of symbolism about the core reason Selkirk College was created back in 1966 — to provide inspiring post-secondary close to home.

“My message is about opportunity,” says Mackay, who will be graduating with the first Rural Pre-Medicine Program cohort. “Selkirk College has provided me the opportunity that I always wanted, in the place that I always wanted to be. All students take a different route to get to this point, but personally the Rural Pre-Medicine Program provides a pathway for rural students who want to go into medicine the opportunity to stay in their close-knit communities.”

Mackay graduated from Rossland Secondary School in 2012 and then headed to the University of Calgary with a goal of getting into medical school. A stand-out student and athlete, she also played on the university’s varsity field hockey team where she became a CIS All-Canadian Student Athlete in her second year. After two years at the Alberta school, Mackay’s mom let her know about a new Selkirk College program providing rural students comprehensive preparation in their pursuit of a medical career.

“The focus on rural medicine totally drew me in,” says Mackay, who returned home in 2014. “I like the idea of small class sizes, the closeness of the cohort which has become like a family, and living at home that has allowed me to be out in the community more as a volunteer.”

Mackay’s list of volunteer involvement is long. She is currently the head coach of the West Kootenay Special Olympics floor hockey and basketball teams, and spends time in the Options for Sexual Health (OPT) clinic that helps Selkirk College students make informed decisions about their sexual health.

Opening Up New Worlds at Selkirk College

Graves was raised in the Warfield/Rossland area and graduated from Trail’s JL Crowe in 2015. Taking inspiration from growing up skiing at Red Mountain Resort and a passion for theatre, she chose the Resort & Hotel Management Program as her post-secondary entry point straight out of high school.

“I’m pretty committed to the things I am passionate about,” Graves says about her last two years at the Nelson-based Tenth Street Campus. “This school and the community is what I am passionate about.”

One of the program’s stand-out students, Graves’ involvement at Selkirk College goes well beyond the classroom. She is a residence advisor at the Tenth Street Campus and was elected to the Selkirk College board of governors for the 2016-2017 academic year.

“It’s taught me a lot about listening,” Graves says of her time spent on the board of governors. “I have learned so much about what it takes to run a college… Selkirk College affects so many lives and all of our communities.”

One of the messages in Graves’ address to her peers will be about learning from other students. With many international students in her program, Graves has spent a lot of time over the last two years discovering more about cultures from around the world.

“Respect is a very important quality and there is always learning that can be done,” says Graves, who received the prestigious Our Future Leaders Award from the BC Hospitality Foundation earlier this year. “Learning from other people is important and that’s not necessarily taught in a classroom. We have had the chance to learn outside of the classroom as much as we have learned in the classroom.”

Graves and Mackay agree that Selkirk College has prepared them well for the next stage of their education and careers. Mackay has interviewed for the University of British Columbia’s Faculty of Medicine and will hear back about acceptance in May. Graves will be heading to the Rocky Mountains where she has landed a coveted position at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise.

As they prepare to represent the Selkirk College Class of 2017, both young women tip their grad caps to the community where they were raised.

“Rossland is a supportive and amazing community, it instills in your going after what you want,” says Mackay. “It was a great place to grow up and you feel the warmth of the community always.”

The Selkirk College Graduation 2017 Ceremony takes place on the Castlegar Campus on Friday, April 28 starting at 12:30 p.m.

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