An advocate for global education

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“College of the Rockies gave me the space to strengthen my roots and to grow from a small-town student to a global scholar who has studied on three continents and who is now pursuing my Masters.”

Chelsey Acierno believes that anything is possible with the right guidance, support, and determination. She must have had a good helping of those, because she’s achieving great things and now aims to provide similar opportunities for others.

Chelsey grew up in Cranbrook and chose to attend College of the Rockies because of the convenience of staying at home, low tuition costs, and the College’s transfer program. As a student in University Arts and Sciences, she gained the foundation she needed to pursue further education and to become an advocate for affordable education.

“The teachers at the College were super approachable, always went the extra mile to answer questions or concerns, and really taught me how to write a successful university paper,” Chelsey said. “Once I got to a big university, I had the confidence to succeed and to ask questions of my professors.”

It was as a student at the College that Chelsey first explored her interest in international studies.

“The College provided me with two scholarships, the Global Learning Scholarship and Pacific Horizons Scholarship, which allowed me to finance an overseas placement in Tanzania, Africa,” she said. “That experience helped to solidify my choice of major when I transferred to university.”

Chelsey went on to complete a BA in International Studies (Security & Conflict) and is a master’s candidate in Refugee Protection and Forced Migration. She has been fortunate enough to have travelled to 59 countries in her pursuit of academics as well as for volunteer placements and employment. In addition to College of the Rockies, she attended school at Simon Fraser University, the university of Cape Town in South Africa, and, currently, the University of London in England. Her international experiences helped to prepare her for her current career.

“I am the recruitment manager at a non-profit, international school in Vancouver and I run our Centre for Equitable Access to Transformative Education (CREATE), providing scholarships and bursaries to youth with refugee backgrounds,” she said. “My role is to travel around the world to encourage students to consider studying in Canada and to consider the BC Transfer System. I advocate for the diverse needs of refugee students through this work and through my role with the World University Services of Canada Student Refugee program where I help students resettle in Canada directly from refugee camps, into post-secondary. I’m fortunate enough to combine my passion for international education with refugee resettlement and access to education.”

Her experience at College of the Rockies provided the groundwork she needed to springboard her current successes.

“I know the benefits of studying at a smaller institution and have been able to spread this awareness around the world and to encourage others to benefit from BC’s premier education system,” she said. “I believe that international students also deserve an affordable education in Canada and that they will benefit from the BC Transfer System. I was able to live the experience I am promoting to others. My primary goal now is to access as many youths as possible and to provide them with affordable options to study in Canada.”

As a product of, and advocate for, the BC Transfer System, Chelsey has advice for other students who start their university education at a college.

“Take as many subjects as possible when at a smaller institution, the price difference can have a profound impact on your life,” she said. “Also do the work you need to prepare for a big institution – talk to your professors, ask for help. They will go the extra mile for you and help prepare you for what can be an intimidating setting when you get to university. Your time at an institution like College of the Rockies can help you to gain the confidence you need to succeed.”

As she continues to promote the BC post-secondary system, Chelsey can’t say enough about her hometown College.

“My time at the College gave me the financial head start I needed to achieve my big dreams outside of Cranbrook but also showed me the value and importance of a strong, solid community to support your journey,” she said. “Also, if you’re a student at College of the Rockies, explore the East Kootenay! You’re literally studying in outdoor paradise. Take advantage of it and get outdoors as much as you can – especially when you start to feel stressed.”