The irony could not be sharper.
Ben Fleury, recipient of the Red Deer College Foundation Outstanding Student Award, must leave.
Fleury, like many other Red Deer College students, must go elsewhere to complete his degree — in his case, communications and media studies at University of Calgary.
“One of the biggest problems students are facing in Central Alberta and Red Deer College is that many of them have to leave,” said Fleury, president of the college’s Students’ Association.
“A lot of them can’t stay in Red Deer and finish their degrees and that poses a significant issue with them.”
Moving to a new city mid-stream affects personal relationships and other contacts, as well as taking many away from the place they intend to settle.
Fleury’s story is all too familiar to Red Deer College president Joel Ward, who was on hand at Westerner Park to congratulate the college’s biggest ever graduating class — 1,900 students — at its 53rd convocation.
“It’s a big issue,” Ward said of the college’s unceasing efforts to become a polytechnic university with full degree-granting status. “The government is well aware of it and there will be an answer this year.
“We’ll deal with the answer when it comes, but I think it will be the most important decision ever made for this institution in its 53-year history.
“If the decision is yes, it will make a huge difference for the economic, cultural and social development of our region.”
Ward said Friday’s graduates will face a different world than their predecessors faced.
“What I’ve learned from them is they are up to it. They are ready. They have a great set of values.
“They have a great social conscience. I think they are going to be that generation that makes a difference.”
Among those poised to make her mark on the world is Kelsie Bakker, who received the Governor General’s Academic Bronze Medal.
The Business Administration Diploma graduate finished with a perfect grade-point average, earning 18 A+ grades and two A’s. She has already landed a financial adviser position at Royal Bank of Canada and plans to complete her Business Administration degree.
Bakker has some advice for those just beginning their post-secondary education.
“You really have to have a passion and a fire for what you’re doing,” said Bakker, who is interested in financial planning and wants to become a global private banker.
“It was something I was really interested in and something I felt I could directly apply in my life and see myself doing in the future.
“That just made it a lot easier to focus on the studies and make sure I knew everything because I knew it would be beneficial going out into my career.”