Gala hopes to raise $120,000 for Squamish Nation trades students 

Reach for the Stars helped 92 students last year

click to enlarge PHOTO: MAJA IMAGES - Scene from the 2018 Reach for the Stars gala in support of Squamish Nation students.
  • Photo: MAJA IMAGES
  • Scene from the 2018 Reach for the Stars gala in support of Squamish Nation students.

Debra Baker is the top student in her Carpentry One class at the Squamish Nation Training and Trades Centre, much to her own surprise.

"Honestly, I went in there just hoping I would pass. I didn't think I would be the top student in my class — I never really was that star student in high school," Baker said.

She'd been working as a flagger for around five years, but while the job paid well, the work wasn't fulfilling.

"Mostly, I was just tired of standing around and not using my brain," she said.

Growing up, Baker's grandfather was a carpenter. She spent much of her time helping him build decks, enjoying herself as she hammered away. Those memories inspired her to go into carpentry herself.

"When I like something, I'm all in," Baker said.

In November, she started the Carpentry One course. She said she was surprised by how involved the people at the trades centre were.

"It's kind of like you have your own team behind you," she said. "I think it's a really great facility, especially for Indigenous people."

When she needed some help with math, tutors were available. The resources extended past just technical skills.

"They have people there who you can talk to if things are bothering you. I've never really been able to talk to people about my issues or have as much help as I did with math. Or basically, anyone who really is there ready to help you with whatever they can," Baker said.

Now to complete her course, Baker needs to do a work practicum.

That's where the Reach for the Stars gala comes in. The fifth annual fundraiser aims to raise $120,000 to help outfit students with tools, protective clothing, equipment and rain gear.

Last year's fundraiser earned more than $100,000 and went toward 92 students. The funds are also put toward paid practicums, "which helps students transition into their career without a financial burden" an event press release said. Ninety per cent of the students who complete these practicums are either hired after their practicum, continue working in the field or return to school for more training.

Baker said the practicum being paid will help with the transition of leaving her well-paying flagging job while she hones her skills. She has already received a few offers for work after her course is finished, and is weighing her options.

Reach for the Stars will be held at the Chief Joe Mathias Centre on Feb. 21.

For more information, contact the trade centre at 604-980-7946.

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