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Why these Douglas College alumni from Burnaby were awarded scholarships

Grads receive recognition for making a positive difference in the community.

A yoga teacher, a registered veterinarian technician and a sociology student are among four Burnaby-based graduates of Douglas College who have earned honours from the school.

Early in April, the post-secondary institution awarded 35 alumni with $1,000 each in recognition of their contributions to their respective communities, and to help further their careers.

To mark the 35th anniversary of the school's foundation, the Douglas College Foundation is honouring the alumni who embody the institution’s vision “through their career, life’s work or passion project, are using their skills and knowledge to adapt, innovate and lead in our ever-changing world.” 

Burnaby recipients included Aahelee Bandyopadhyay, Abby Verigin, Douglas Beech and Jocelyn Marsh.

Flourishing through movement and yoga

Abby Verigin was a student when she discovered the power of movement and yoga in helping with her anxiety. So she put her heart into building a space that would help share the same benefits with others. The 25-year-old built her business, How to Flourish, to help the community understand the benefits of physical activity for our lives — both physically and mentally.

“As someone who's experienced anxiety, I found how much physical activity could benefit my mental health,” she said. “A lot of people have no idea how their body works and some go their whole lives without paying any awareness to their breath…My goal is to help people feel their best — through moving their bodies, learning about [them], and the power of movement.”

While Verigin said most of the scholarship money will go towards improving technology at her business, starting with replacing her “really old” laptop, she also plans to donate a portion of the scholarship to charity.

For the love of our oceans

When an out of province transplant Jocelyn Marsh joined South Burnaby Veterinary hospital as a vet tech, she set out with a separate mission: to eliminate millions of pieces of plastic from Canadian veterinary clinics. She launched a Love Our Oceans project — with a goal of spreading awareness about plastic waste and eliminating plastic waste from veterinary clinics.

The project, supported by Oceanwise, aims to eliminate plastic waste in the industry through two ways. One is a pill-vial recycling program, where clients can return their pill vials for recirculation or have them refilled for medications; the other is a weight based methodology for injectable controlled substances, which eliminates the use of plastic needles and syringes for controlled auditing purposes.

The project gained her alma mater’s recognition. 

“We use [plastic] on a daily basis," she said. "It's kind of neat to see the wheels turning and how every industry can do more in regards to plastic reduction.”

Marsh hopes that she can inspire others in the industry to try to reduce plastic waste in the environment.

'Social justice with a global lens'

Growing up in Calcutta, India, Aahelee Bandyopadhyay — her surname is also rendered as Banerjee — was exposed to inequalities based on class, caste and gender.

When she came to Canada in 2017 to pursue post-secondary studies at Douglas College, she gravitated towards social sciences and justice.

“I wanted to understand why our society is the way it is right now — why it is so segregated," she said.

At Douglas College, Banerjee started actively involving herself in the community through student union work and volunteering. The 24-year-old has since been a strong supporter of fairness for students, women’s rights and social justice — undertaking an array of campaigns.

Banerjee believes that nothing in the world is isolated. “If it's an issue that's happening in India, it might be connected to issues globally.”

Her experience has allowed her to understand her position in Canada, she said.

“I come from a post-colonial nation, settling in a settler-colonial nation, which is Canada. So there are a lot of dynamics to understand —decolonization and Indigenous sovereignty. So trying to figure out what's best for everyone and seeing social justice with a global lens would be would be a cause that is close to my heart.”