The Sapergia Family

When Heather Sapergia became one of 16,000 to sign a petition calling for the creation of UNBC, she had her children in mind.

“We were thinking about what their future looked like,” she says. “If they chose to go to university, we wanted them to be as close to home as possible, not only because it’s less expensive, but because as a parent I wanted my kids close by.”

Heather remembers the push to create a university in Northern BC in the late 1980s as exciting times, and the public‘s effort to make it a reality made her feel more connected to her community. On June 22, 1990, their efforts bore fruit and the BC government passed the UNBC Act. 

“It made me proud when our collective will encouraged the government to act,” she says. “People showed they wanted something better for Northern BC, a place where they could pursue their dreams, right here in the North.”

From left, Tracy, Daryl, Carol, Heather, and Laura Sapergia

Heather ended up pursuing her own dreams by earning a Bachelor of Arts degree majoring in Psychology in 1996 at the age of 46. 

 “I loved it. I couldn’t get enough of being a student,” she explains. “The mental challenge of what I was learning was wonderful, and the ability to interact with other mature students was great. Listening to people’s ideas and opening my mind to things I wasn’t aware of was really inspiring.”

Heather’s children chose to study elsewhere but her nieces Carol and Laura also went on to become UNBC alumni. Carol is now a secondary school teacher in Dawson Creek, and Laura owns a grocery store in Prince George.

“We’re really proud of those girls,” says Heather. “They’ve gone on to really stunning things.”

Carol and Laura’s parents Tracy and Daryl were also petition signers. Tracy says she just felt it was time Northern BC had a university of its own.

“It was just too far for young people to go, and too expensive to travel, to spend years away from home,” she says. “We believed that the opportunity for high school grads to participate in post-secondary education would be so much higher with a university here, and they’d be so much more likely to get degrees.”

Tracy is originally from the Lower Mainland and was aware of just how far away the existing universities were. She wanted her kids to have the opportunity to achieve a university degree in Prince George.

“For us to know they were earning their degrees closer to home was really great,” she says. “If they had gone away we wouldn’t have spent many holidays or celebrated birthdays together.”

Heather is now retired and continues to make time for UNBC, attending events and lectures at the Prince George campus. Learning is an end in itself for Heather, and knowledge is never far away when there’s a university just up the hill.

“It brought all kinds of new ideas I hadn’t been aware of before,” she says. “It’s great to sit in on talks and learn about something new, but it’s not just me. I really see a difference in the cultural attitudes of people in the North since UNBC opened.”

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