After helping build a caring city for 49 years, Langara College rolls out welcome mat to residents on Community Day

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      Free massages, cookie excavations, theatre, carnival games, and a student-film marathon are just some of what's taking place on Saturday (June 15) at Langara College's Community Day.

      It's all part of the school's 49th-anniversary celebration from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at its main campus at 100 West 49th Avenue.

      Conveniently located just a short walk from the Langara-49th Canada Line station, the event will also feature free concerts, topped off by the headliners, 54-40.  

      Formed in 1981 with a name derived from former U.S. president James Polk's bellicose slogan, “54-40 or Fight!”, the local rock band still has two original members: vocalist and guitarist Neil Osbourne and bassist Brad Merritt.

      Drummer Matt Johnson joined in 1986 and the newbie, guitarist Dave Genn, has been with 54-40 for 16 years.

      Over a six-year span in the 1990s, 54-40 racked up three platinum albums and one gold album.

      Other performers at Community Day include Desirée Dawson, the Big Coast, Zulu Panda, and Rockin' Robin.

      There will also be alumni homecomings, a kids' zone, and a staging of Shangri-Langara: The Play, in which visitors to the campus can step into a set created by students from the school's highly regarded Studio 58 theatre program.

      And those free massages? They're being offered by students in the Langara registered massage therapists' program.

      Community Day also features a strong Indigenous component, including a smudge to cleanse the mind and body with smoke from ancient herbs.

      The cookie excavation comes courtesy of the Sto:Lo Research and Resource Management Centre and the Musqueam Archaeology Department.

      Meanwhile, local artist Aaron “Splash” Nelson-Moody will be carving Indigenous art on wood. And there will also be an opportunity to learn how to create cedar bracelets, which were worn by Indigenous people. 

      One of Langara's hallmarks over the years has been its journalism program.

      Graduates have gone on to work for many media outlets, including the Vancouver Sun, Globe and Mail, Global News, and the Georgia Straight. Between 1 p.m. and 2:30 p.m., this proud history will be celebrated on the 4th level of the T Building. 

      Langara is also rightly celebrated for its career-training programs, which have made an enormous contribution to the economic, cultural, community, and social fabric of the province.

      The school offers bachelor's degrees in a number of areas, including nursing, business administration, and social work.

      That's in addition to diplomas and certificates through a multitude of programs.

      One of the more imaginative is the recently launched diploma in applied social sciences and humanities. It's an interdisciplinary, two-year program bringing together expertise of faculty members across a wide range of subjects.

      Alina Wong and Gaia Chernushenko are two Studio 58 acting students who are also learning a great deal about what goes on back-stage.

      In my opinion, Langara doesn't receive sufficient recognition for another one of its important functions: enabling students to obtain university-transfer credits.

      These courses are often taught in smaller classes and at a more affordable price than similar offerings in universities.

      Langara is levelling the educational playing field for those who might not have as many advantages as those who go directly into university from high school. 

      Education is the great equalizer in society—and Langara plays a pivotal role in this regard.

      By using Langara as a stepping stone, these students have still been able to pursue their dreams of becoming engineers, dentists, lawyers, doctors, scientific researchers, teachers, architects, or any other occupation that requires a university degree.

      It was Langara where a former premier and former national health minister, Ujjal Dosanjh, began his postsecondary education in B.C. He later became a lawyer.

      Another politician who left a lasting imprint on the province, former cabinet minister and city councillor Tim Stevenson, also attended Langara before going to UBC, where he advanced equality for gay and lesbian students.

      If it weren't for Stevenson's lobbying of then premier Glen Clark before the 1996 provincial election, it's conceivable that the B.C. government wouldn't be funding antiretroviral therapies today for people with HIV.

      Tim Stevenson is one of many Langarans who've helped make Vancouver what it is today.

      Some Langara alumni, like former Vancouver Province columnist and long-ago Georgia Straight contributor Jeani Read, have left a lasting mark on the school.

      Her husband, playwright and screenwriter Michael Mercer, bequeathed $1.3 million in 2012 to honour his wife, who had died five years earlier.

      This gift is funding two annual scholarships of $10,000 each in the journalism program.

      "When Michael set aside the money for these fellowships, he had two priorities,” Jeani's brother, Nicholas Read, said at the time. “The first was to honour Jeani's memory. That was more important to him than anything. The second was to help a deserving student or students get his or her first job because he knew how tough that is. After all, he'd once been there himself."

      Some who've obtained transfer credits from Langara are more apt to consider the university where they obtained their degree as their alma mater.

      This can be the case even though Langara played an instrumental role in some of them gaining the confidence to thrive once they arrived on a large campus like UBC or SFU. 

      These Langarans are also being encouraged to attend Community Day on Saturday at a special homecoming for alumni.

      There's a reason why anyone with ties to the college should consider heading out to this Community Day.

      It's because Langara has been building community in Vancouver in countless ways for nearly 50 years, including through its efforts to advance reconciliation with First Nations.

      That's reflected in its Indigenous name, which was bestowed by the Musqueam people in 2016.

      It was the first time that a public postsecondary institution in B.C. received an Indigenous name. And it's a very public acknowledgement that it exists on unceded traditional territory of the Musqueam.

      In fact, it's hard to imagine what Vancouver would have been like without all of those Langara-educated social workers, business people, journalists, health professionals, theatre artists, photographers, writers, and, yes, politicians, who've helped make the city what it is today.

      I view Langara as being part of the heart of Vancouver for five decades—a college of higher learning that should be cherished by all of us.

      That's because there's really nothing else like it.

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