Class of 2023 Valedictorians Provide Message of Hope

April 26, 2023
Convocation Image for Valedictorians

Out of chaos comes strength and a deeper appreciation for community, a lesson that students in Selkirk College’s Class of 2023 had thrust upon them during the challenges of the last three years.

Graduating students from all Selkirk College programs walked across the stage and into the next exciting chapter of their lives at Convocation 2023 on April 28. From one-year certificate programs to four-year bachelor degrees, more than 1,050 learners earned a credential through months of hard work on campuses spread across West Kootenay and Boundary communities.

Though diverse in knowledge and training outcomes, the Class of 2023 is bonded by the current times which have set the tone for learning at the post-secondary level. The COVID-19 pandemic cast a shadow over the last three years, requiring students to dig deep to achieve their educational objectives.

“It’s very difficult to deal with so much uncertainty,” says Shelby Bell, a graduate of the Rural Pre-Medicine Program and the co-valedictorian for the Class of 2023. “But in the grand scheme, life is full of uncertainty on a day-to-day basis. For me personally, COVID-19 really instilled resiliency and made me realize that you need to understand that you don’t always have control over what is happening. You have to find ways to hit your goals in the best way possible.”

Chosen to represent her peers at the convocation ceremony, Bell was joined by Bachelor of Science in Nursing Program graduate Kiel Harvey on stage at the Castlegar Campus where they provided parting words. The co-valedictorians are excellent examples of what it takes to overcome and thrive.

Finding Inspiration in Peers

With a fondness for rural lifestyle and determined to pursue an education that leads to a career in health care, Bell found a perfect beginning at Selkirk College. Graduating from high school a year early in her hometown of Qualicum Beach on Vancouver Island, she started the three-year Rural Pre-Medicine Program in September 2020 during a less-then-perfect time.

2023 Valedictorian Shelby Bell
A graduate of the three-year Rural Pre-Medicine Program, Shelby Bell is the co-valedictorian for the Selkirk College Class of 2023.

An outstanding academic student, Bell managed the isolation of the early months of the  pandemic by slowly building bonds with a new community of friends and staying physically active on the grounds around the Castlegar Campus where she lived all three years in student housing. A key member of the college’s Student Ambassador team in her second year, she played an important role in initiating and organizing campus-wide events. Transitioning to Student Ambassador team mentor in her final year, Bell’s passion for contributing towards an inclusive student body and creating a sense of belonging had meaningful impact on other learners.

“It’s not about your speed, but your direction,” says the 19-year-old. “Just because life is not happening on your specific timeline, if you are headed in the right direction then hard work will get you to where you want to be.”

A leader inside and outside the classroom, Bell places a premium on community involvement. A multi-sport athlete, she will compete in her first half-Ironman in May and complete her Bachelor of Science online through Thompson Rivers University while applying to medical schools. With the ultimate goal of becoming a rural physician, Bell is inspired by her time at Selkirk College. 

“When I look at the work that my peers have put in to get this point, it is just incredible,” she says. “It feels good to be around a group of well-rounded individuals who are passionate about what they do. Seeing the type of people who are interested in being part of the health care sector during this very difficult time, it’s very heartening and gives me hope for the future.”

Finding the Right Fit

Connections are a vital component of successful education and fulfilling careers, but Harvey wasn’t feeling it in his first two forays into post-secondary at large universities. When he found his way to Selkirk College and the Bachelor of Science in Nursing Program, the relationships he built with faculty and the passion witnessed in peers provided the energy he now carries into a new career.

“At Selkirk College, you have the time and space to put in the work to actually start building a community that you can build strength from,” he says. “Having a support network from classmates and instructors is very important.”

2023 Valedictorian Kiel Harvey
Graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree, Kiel Harvey is the co-valedictorian for the Class of 2023.

After graduating high school in Alberta and not finding that post-secondary spark, Harvey spent much of his 20s exploring the world through travel and pursuing his love of outdoor sport. In his early-30s, he returned to formal education where he found the right fit at Selkirk College.

“I really enjoy connecting with people and nursing is unique in that respect,” says the 35-year-old. “You are in a position where you are working with people during vulnerable times of their life. Because of that, you have an ability to open up and be curious about their humanity and lived experience. It’s hard to do that, but it is one of the beautiful elements of nursing.”

A stellar academic student, Harvey’s vigor for learning at all levels translated into a long list of accomplishments during his four years. A leader amongst peers, he represented the college on the Canadian Nursing Student Association and as a BC Nurses’ Union student member while volunteering for external community organizations such as ANKORS. When the pandemic hit and vaccines became available in 2021, he was a student immunizer at public clinics. In the spring of 2022, Harvey traveled with other Selkirk College students to rural Uganda to deepen his global knowledge by learning from community and health care professionals during a two-month practicum.

Entering a career with vast opportunities, Harvey will begin his post-college journey working for Vancouver Coastal Health specializing in emergency medicine where he is excited to start giving back.

“Going to post-secondary takes a lot of sacrifice from other people in our lives,” Harvey says. “Investing in yourself to get an education requires a lot support from the rest of the community, so you can ultimately come back as a person who can then build up your community with your unique strength. When you give back, that is how education works best.”

Learn more about the School of Health & Human Services.

Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) #4: Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.