Kamloops News

Why these bursaries are only for recovering Kamloops drug users

Phoenix Centre in Kamloops offers educational bursaries to those with a minimum of one year recovery time.
Image Credit: UNSPLASH

One organization in Kamloops has a unique and effective way of helping recovering drug users take their lives, and their confidence back.

Phoenix Centre offers educational bursaries to those with a minimum of one year recovery time and are ready to take the next steps in their lives.

Several students have benefitted from the bursaries and encouragement the centre provides them. A Way Home founder and well known youth advocate, Katherine McParland, was a recipient of the bursaries in 2013 and 2014, and later completed her social work degree.

“It spurred her to start thinking about going to school,” said program supervisor at Phoenix Centre Leann Kopytko. “We encouraged her to apply and she won in 2013 and 2014. The community support we provide boosts confidence. Katherine McParland went on to complete her masters which she followed through with.”

READ MORE: Student bursary named in memory of Kamloops youth advocate

After two pandemic years, the centre is hoping to help more students than ever before. To date, 41 people have received the bursaries, called “Out of the Ashes” that go up to $2,500, and $95,000 in total has been offered.

“Some recipients have become social workers, some have become nurses and one lady won four years in a row,” Kopytko said. “Some chose to go into trades programs and computer engineering. A lot of them want to pay it forward and Katherine was a prime example.”

Addiction is a life-long battle and McParland died of an overdose in 2020.

The centre provides emotional support and encouragement to the students.

“We are here to let them know they can have confidence in their successes,” Kopytko said. “When they are starting to make change it is a huge thing for them to recognize they are not alone. A lot of them are brilliant and they lose sight of that along the way when they are in active addiction.”

The program started around 2008 when there weren’t bursaries available for those in recovery.

“You go to graduations and see kids getting award after award and it isn’t the people who are in the population we work with,” Kopytko said. “This gives them an opportunity to come back and try school again. It is fascinating watching them realize how smart they are and gain confidence to keep going.”

READ MOREKamloops youth homeless non-profit 'continues to mourn' founder's fentanyl overdose death

Some applicants are part of the Phoenix Centre recovery program and some are not but they are working on their recovery. 

Kopytko said the bursary idea started when her late husband was in the terminal stages of cancer and they wanted to do something special for the community. The program has grown beyond what she hoped for. 

“Doing the bursary with my late husband Ron was an incredible gift that has kept on giving,” she said. “I thought the gift was to have something positive to discuss during a very difficult time in our lives, instead the focus is legacy change and stopping stigma.”

The bursaries come from fundraisers and donations by the community. With in-person meetings being restricted for the past two years, the centre is excited about raising more money this year and helping out more prospective students.

“This community is amazing,” Kopytko said. “Some businesses have been donating every year since the start. Individuals donate what they can, including those who have benefitted from our recovery program. Every penny donated goes to the bursaries."

READ MORE: More than $100,000 raised for A Way Home Kamloops

The application deadline for the Out of the Ashes bursaries is June 30, 2022.

The applicant must be able to provide a Kamloops home address or have recently moved to Kamloops to attend a local school facility or program of choice.

The applicant must have a minimum of one year recovery time and either be between age 17 and 29, or 30 years and older.

Applicants must not be currently facing incarceration or outstanding charges.

“They will need to fill out a background check, write a testimonial, provide three letters of support from support persons and give proof of enrollment or course selection.

“This program is fun and enjoyable, and people who receive it are grateful and ambitious, quite a few of them are young moms,” she said.

Phoenix Centre is a charitable organization and donations are tax deductible. 

For an Out of the Ashes bursary application form go here, or call 250-374-4634.

To donate, go here.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Shannon Ainslie or call 250-819-6089 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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