In a town where the lack of childcare has been described as a crisis, there's some welcome news.
The province has poured about $4 million into its Early Childhood Educator (ECE) Education Support Fund, giving at least some locals who were left without funding for their education some much-needed cash.
The bursary-granting program ran out of money in the fall, leaving people in Squamish — and throughout the province — without some funding for ECE schooling.
The biggest impact locally was felt by students in Capilano University's new Squamish Early Childhood Education program, which has been offered at the Quest University campus since September.
Two students in that program told The Chief the chance of getting government funding for their education this past fall was quashed when it was announced the fund ran out of money.
They said, as a result, some of their classmates were considering dropping out, as the bursaries were the only way some could afford the education.
The pair voiced concerns in written letters to the province. Initially, some locals were able to offer partial help — Sea to Sky Community Services offered $250 to each of the affected students shortly after.
But recently, more help arrived. The Ministry of Children and Family Development announced $4 million had been put in the bursary fund.
"We will continue to evaluate the impact of this ECE Educator Support Fund to increase the quantity and enhance the skill level of ECE professionals," reads a letter attributed to Katrina Chen, the minister of state for child care.
Carol Misquitta, one of the Squamish Capilano students, received the message on Christmas Eve.
"It was like an early Christmas present for me," she said with a laugh.
"I think the pen is mightier than the sword," Misquitta said, reflecting on the letter she previously sent to several government representatives and local organizations decrying the lack of funding. "I've always been a good writer and people told me to write, and so I thought, 'Let's just pour my heart out.'"
Misquitta operates Squamish's Busy Bees Family Daycare, which has the capacity to care for seven children.
Completing her education will allow her to open up a group centre with more spaces. Currently, she's running the daycare out of her house. In addition, the education will help her become a better caregiver, she said.
Currently, Misquitta says it appears as if her tuition for Fall 2019 will be covered by the government. She can apply to have her future courses covered as well.
Misquitta was not the only one to pour her heart out. She said she took inspiration from fellow student Lindsay Kingston, whose message was published as a letter to the editor in The Chief and sent to representatives various levels of government.
"It sounds like a lot of positive things are happening," said Kingston. "I didn't expect much change to happen... I couldn't believe it actually made a change. I was pretty impressed."
She said she's cautiously optimistic — it seems like the provincial government will be at least partially footing the bill for her education, but the money isn't yet in her bank account.
Kingston said the main reason she wrote the letter was that she didn't want taxpayer money to get wasted.
She said she was worried about was seemed like a lack of government co-ordination — it would be a bad idea to increase Early Childhood Education programs, yet fail to provide funding that would allow people to afford it.
In Squamish, Kingston operates In The Meadow Childcare in her home, and obtaining ECE certification will allow her to create a group centre so she won't have to offer up her living quarters as childcare space, which she does now.
"I'm really happy," she said.
The government launched the Early Childhood Educator Education Support Fund in September 2018 with a target of supporting 4,000 students by the end of March 2020.
By the province's count, to date, this fund has provided more than 5,400 bursaries to students pursuing their ECE education goals.