Thompson Rivers University

Achieving dreams close to home: TRU Lillooet expands

June 5, 2024

New programming, new technology and new opportunities closer to home. That’s what’s fresh for the community in and around TRU’s recently revitalized and expanded Lillooet Regional Centre.

In addition to the same non-academic programs available such as First Aid, Business/Office Skills and various trades, new academic programs include university and employment preparation (UPREP) courses and the Early Childhood Education (ECE) diploma program.

“UPREP and ECE are an example of high demand programming in Lillooet and the region,” says Baldev Pooni, dean of Williams Lake and the Regional Centres and also of the School of Trades and Technology. “Day cares cannot find qualified staff. This is preventing people from being able to work. It is a vicious cycle.”

The expansion also brings a new classroom and smart technologies to support student and community needs.

Expanding what’s possible

Lillooet Regional Centre ECE students

Lillooet Regional Centre ECE students

Early benefits of the expansion include enhancing in-town educational opportunities, marking a new path for personal and career development in the region.

“We know that students are more successful in studying close to their home communities. They have the family supports which is critical in their success,” says Pooni. He also notes the high concentration of Indigenous Peoples in rural communities like Lillooet.

“Our 10-year change goals include ‘Eliminate the achievement gap’ and ‘Honour truth, reconciliation and rights.’ These goals are about providing access to students throughout our region,” he adds.

“We need to fulfill our mission by providing education close to home. What better way to provide education in regions as well as the main campuses.”

Journey without travel

The mission is well underway. With the Lillooet Regional Centre expansion, prospective, new and returning students can start an educational journey that doesn’t require moving away from home or leaving their community ties.

“I’m so happy that TRU has expanded the building here in Lillooet,” says ECE student Karen Edwards. “Having TRU in our community is great, as a lot of people can’t get out of town or have the time to leave home.”

“It’s amazing that my dream to become an ECE is able to happen so close to home,” says Patti Alexander, from remote Shalath (about 65 km from Lillooet).

UPREP student Candice Sussums says TRU providing courses in Lillooet has given her the opportunity to further her education without having to move or live out of town. “So far, the courses I have taken here have been a huge positive effect on my life,” she adds.

Another UPREP student agrees. “My life has changed, and my future is bright,” says Dee Kromp.

Programs with seamless pathways

Students using the fresh study space

Students using the fresh study space

The voices from the classroom reflect another important benefit of the expansion: Creating seamless pathways to other programs and professions.

“Our vision is to provide education by pathways, where students can plan their education close to home and have seamless pathways guaranteed to Williams Lake and Kamloops to the higher credentials,” says Pooni.

ECE student Elaine Peters reflects on how the experience is already paving a unique path for her future.

“The ECE program here in Lillooet is great because it’s an eye-opener about how important the early childhood years are. As someone who grew up with so much trauma, my learning was a bit stunted and I didn’t have many opportunities to step out of my comfort zone,” she says.

Peters is taking the ECE program with plans to eventually ladder into community support worker or student support worker opportunities in the future.

She’s not the only one planning on continuing their education after graduation. While she was originally nervous to start university, ECE student Sarah Hanson says she now wants to keep going: “I want to work in kindergarten or maybe even as a teacher’s assistant,” she says.

Programming in Lillooet and other TRU Regional Centres continues to grow. “We expect to open two or three additional regional centres in the next three years,” says Pooni.

Learn more: Early Childhood Education: Lillooet and Lytton: Community Education and Workforce Development.