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Responding to COVID-19 through access, connection, and contribution

Posted on April 30, 2020


Access to education is essential for a healthy society, and while physical distancing measures are vitally important right now, I also struggle daily with the fact VCC’s doors are currently closed to the public. 

More than a month into our collective fight against the spread of COVID-19, I deeply miss seeing students fill our campuses, yet I am incredibly proud of VCC’s faculty and staff for their dedication, determination, and creativity in successfully shifting more than 100 programs and 1,100 courses online in a remarkably short period of time.

Compared to many other post-secondary institutions, VCC faces a particular challenge because we specialize in practical skills and hands-on experiences. I recognize that these things are very difficult to convey at a distance, but I continue to be impressed by how quickly our students have adapted to the new learning environment. This is a testament to their determination and ability to succeed.

VCC recognized for accessibility 

Our vision statement challenges us to be “The first choice for innovative, experiential learning for life,” and accessibility is a major part of our mission and identity.

At VCC, we pride ourselves in welcoming everyone, no matter their circumstances or stage in life, and empowering them through post-secondary education. Whether through offering world-class culinary, baking, automotive, and health sciences training, serving as a hub for the Deaf and hard of hearing community, or offering free adult upgrading, we aim to make education a reality for all.

For these reasons and more, I am especially pleased to share that Building B at our Broadway campus has now been officially certified through the Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility Certification™ (RHFAC) program, which recognizes meaningful access for people of all abilities. As an extra honour, VCC has trained many of the RHFAC professionals in Vancouver through an ongoing educational partnership.

An extraordinary effort

Although the doors to our campuses are closed, I want to highlight the bold and generous contributions that continue to happen behind them. I am honoured that the City of Vancouver sought our partnership, along with the B.C. Government, in producing and distributing 6,000 meals per week for our Downtown Eastside neighbours. VCC departments have also donated 60,000 pieces of personal protective equipment (PPE) to our frontline workers, and VCC-based immigrant entrepreneurs are sewing hundreds of face masks for at-risk communities.

Whatever the coming months may bring, VCC fully intends to remain an institution on which our city can rely, both for educational excellence and as a focal point for community support.

I also want to thoughtfully recognize everyone who is keeping our school and our city running, often at considerable personal risk: cleaning and security staff, grocery store clerks, bus drivers, IT technicians, and more. Many of these are VCC graduates, and I proudly remember this every night at 7 p.m. as we send out a cheer for their safety.

We can and should celebrate “flattening the curve,” but it doesn’t mean the risk has disappeared. Please keep listening to our health authorities. Take physical distancing seriously. Be vigilant about hygiene. Wash your hands. The only way we can do this is together.



Ajay Patel
President and CEO (interim)
Vancouver Community College