A Way Home unveils bursaries, recognizes community partners

By Katie Neustaeter
November 6, 2018 - 4:35pm Updated: November 7, 2018 - 8:45am

KAMLOOPS — If you’ve ever found yourself wondering: Can one person make a difference? How could I, with my life experience, actually make an impact on the world? Do I matter? Or is there a purpose for even me? Then you haven’t yet met Katherine McParland, Executive Director of A Way Home, who definitively settles those questions.

As a youth aging out of the foster care system, Katherine found herself homeless, but not hopeless. Through a tireless pursuit of purpose, Katherine has grown the seed of her vision from a group of individuals meeting in an abandoned building brainstorming solutions to a fully-fledged non-profit organization with arms that reach far into the community and beyond for a common goal: the eradication of youth homelessness.

If you’ve already encountered Katherine then you probably know how compelling her story is, how contagious her steady determination can be and how quickly her vision of a day when all kids have a way home is ignited in others.

Tuesday was a big day for A Way Home as it launched its Employment and Education Program which makes paths with partnerships that connect youth experiencing homelessness to both employment opportunities and education programs that would otherwise be inaccessible to them.

“Our most difficult experiences and our deepest wounds can inform our sense of purpose and our passion and joy,” began Katherine. “Our young people that have transcended homelessness have skills and transferable knowledge that can really support our community if they’re only given the opportunities they need to flourish and be safe.”

Just in the pilot stage of the program nine youth attended post-secondary, six youth were able to upgrade their education, 11 youth found employment and many others took their first steps toward a future that would otherwise be impossible.

Of course the incredible programs that Katherine and A Way Home have taken from dreams to reality could not come to fruition without substantial support from the community.

Gordon Down, Manager of Student Awards and Financial Support at Thompson Rivers University, has been a significant partner for the education portion of the new program. At yesterday’s event, Gordon was recognized for his “above and beyond” work with A Way Home that has resulted in five TRU bursaries, each up to $4,000, that will be awarded to youth who would otherwise face insurmountable barriers to higher education. Many members of the TRU faculty are also making themselves available as student mentors who come alongside youth who do not otherwise have a support system to advise and counsel them on their paths to education.

The RBC branches of Kamloops have also been an integral partner for A Way Home as they have helped to propel the employment branch of the program with both professional advice and financial support through the RBC Foundation. The team representing the RBC Foundation also donated $12,500 for Future Launch, which will enable the A Way Home Peer Navigation Program to help youth experiencing homelessness achieve their employment goals.

The people who gathered for the launch of the A Way Home Employment and Education Program heard the success stories of kids who fell through the gaps in the system but were caught by the arms of a network built from the dream of one individual who knew that we could, and must, do a better job of caring for kids who need a second chance to find A Way Home.

One day at a time, through A Way Home, Katherine McParland is showing us all that whatever our life experience, obstacles or circumstances, every person has the power to make a significant and lasting impact on the world for good.

If you want to be a part of their purpose, A Way Home is always looking for meaningful partners and committed volunteers.