On the eve of Selkirk College Convocation, the Rural Pre-Medicine Program Class of 2019 gathered with family, friends and instructors at the Mir Centre for Peace for an intimate sharing of what it took to get this point in their post-secondary journey.
Sitting amongst the gathered guests at the afternoon tea on the Castlegar Campus were Andrea Chaves and Craig Swanson. The parents of 20-year-old Idaylia Swanson, the couple were beaming as instructors praised all the students for their diligent work in the classroom and the community.
“I could not be more proud,” said mom Andrea. “First of all, to watch her grow up, but also to see her be so successful. That’s not just in school, it’s how she gives back to her community. She studies so hard, she volunteers, she works, everything is so rock solid with her. It’s amazing to see a young woman be like that… she inspires me.”
Born-and-raised in Castlegar, Idaylia is the first in her family to attend post-secondary. Her dad is a heavy duty mechanic and her mom is in electrical sales. The couple have three daughters, with Idaylia being the eldest.
“I was only 19 when we had her, it was an instant transition from teenagers to parents,” says Andrea. “We must have done something right, I am not sure what! She deserves most of the credit because she is amazing. We didn’t guide her in this direction, her drive is her drive. We obviously encouraged her and supported her, but we never had to push her. She has gotten to this stage in her life because of her drive.”
Idaylia is one of eight students who graduated from the three-year Rural Pre-Medicine Program in 2019, the third program cohort to reach the milestone since it was launched in 2014. All of the students have similar stories to tell of academic perseverance and dedication to their education.
The unique program is aimed at preparing learners to pursue a career in rural medicine or in a wide variety of health care professions such as pharmacy, dentistry, optometry and veterinary medicine. The standard course work required to gain acceptance into medical school is complimented by unique extra training that strengthens a student’s ability to succeed in a highly competitive academic area.
Entering the program in September 2016, having just graduated from Stanley Humphries Secondary School in Castlegar, Idaylia originally had her sights set on becoming a rural physician. She has since switched her focus to pharmacy and the weekend after convocation interviewed with the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences at the University of British Columbia for a seat in the Doctor of Pharmacy Program.
“I have gained and refined skills I didn’t know I necessarily had,” she said of her studies. “My instructors and fellow students have taught me so much over the last three years. Getting to connect with all of these people over the last three years is one of the best parts of my schooling because everybody has taught me something different.”
Benefitting from living at home, Idaylia was able to work part-time jobs while going to school and getting involved in a variety of volunteer work. Her time spent helping the Crisis Line in Trail as a volunteer was lauded by those running the Trail FAIR Society.
Another advantage of living a five-minute drive from the Castlegar Campus is that she was able to experience college with her family by her side.
“My parents are very supportive and I am very fortunate to have them behind me,” she says. “It’s been a learning journey for them as well because they never had the chance to get a post-secondary education. For them to see me go through this has been an interesting experience. I’m also happy that I was able to show a good example to my younger sisters so they know what it takes to have success.”
You can learn more about the Selkirk College Rural Pre-Medicine Program at: selkirk.ca/rural-pre-medicine.