The moment Jess Chitty arrived in the Okanagan and started working at Vernon Christian School, she knew this was where she was supposed to be.
A teacher for more than seven years, Chitty heard about the Society of Christian Schools in British Columbia while studying in Australia.
Five years later, with a two-year working holiday visa in hand, Chitty boarded a plane for Canada in March 2020—the day the international borders closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I had a summer job lined up, but because of the pandemic, there was a lot of uncertainty about whether or not I would be able to do that job,” Chitty said.
Fortunately for Chitty, a friend in Manitoba had a place for her to stay, and within a few months—and an application to the SCSBC—Chitty lined up a job at VCS, and never looked back.
“The society inspired me to want to teach and grow here. The community I’m in at Vernon Christian School is phenomenal. It’s unlike any community I’ve ever been in,” Chitty said. “To me, there’s nothing more purposeful or rewarding than investing in someone else’s life. The privilege of working alongside children and families, I don’t think anything else compares.”
She was so taken with the Okanagan and her new job, Chitty decided to turn her two-year visa into a permanent move.
“I was seeking ways to apply for permanent residency and found that the online system was challenging to navigate,” Chitty said. “Trying to find avenues that I could take in my situation was difficult on my own.”
Chitty reached out to an immigration consultant in the summer of 2021 and soon learned about the Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot (RNIP) program. Then, at the start of her third school year at Vernon Christian School, Chitty learned she would be able to stay.
“The (Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada) informed me that my application has been approved. I’m just waiting for my permanent residency card to come in the mail,” Chitty said. “It feels amazing. It honestly is a huge relief to know that I can stay here long-term.”
Vernon Christian School principal Matt Driediger couldn’t agree more.
“Jess is a passionate and gifted teacher. Students and colleagues thrive around her, impacted by her care and expertise. We are so grateful to have her in our school community,” Driediger said. “The RNIP program benefited us tremendously. It supported us in the process of demonstrating Jess’s value to our school and to Canada, and ultimately helped her achieve permanent residency so that she can continue serving on our staff and in the Vernon community.”
The RNIP program, Chitty said, has helped her to continue doing the work she loves in a community she’s proud to call her home.
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