Serwa Spirit Match to raise $1M for Thrive Here campaign for a Recreation and Wellness Centre

By College Relations | February 7, 2024

An image of Cliff and Lois Serwa
Cliff and Lois Serwa.

Cliff Serwa describes himself and his wife Lois as just ‘ordinary people with a fair bit of determination working to make things happen.’ That may be true, but the results and impact of their determination on the community, the province and beyond are far reaching and forever lasting. And now they are leading the way to a better future for students at Ƶ (Ƶ).

When approached to support the Thrive Here campaign to build a much-needed Recreation and Wellness Centre at the College’s Kelowna campus, not only did Cliff and Lois become honorary chairs, they also committed $500,000 towards the fundraising goal. Now, they’re inviting the community to help the project get underway by offering an incentive to match donations through the Serwa Spirit Match. 

For every dollar donated by the community, the Serwas will match the donation, up to $500,000, raising an additional $1 million for the Thrive Here campaign. 

“The Recreation and Wellness Centre is going to make an incredible difference for students, and these students are our future,” says Cliff.  “With community donations and support we are one step closer to seeing this centre open for students and our community.”

With the match funding, the Serwas are donating an incredible $1 million to the Recreation and Wellness Centre at Ƶ.

Playing basketball was what motivated Cliff to stay in school, providing the focus he needed to persevere. Without his education, Cliff says there may not have been a Big White and he wouldn’t have entered politics. 

Lois adds she is inspired by the potential mental health benefits students will experience when the new Centre opens.

“Having a place for students to connect with each other while burning off stress through sport and physical activity is so important,” says Lois. “This Centre will positively impact the well-being of thousands of students.”

According to the Mental Health Commission of Canada, three out of every four mental health problems have been first diagnosed between the ages of 16 and 24, a time when many people are also involved in post-secondary education.

Helen Jackman, Ƶ Foundation executive director, says many people are surprised to learn that Ƶ’s Kelowna campus does not have a gym or large recreational facility today. There is no “home side venue” for the Ƶ Coyotes’ basketball and baseball teams to train, or a place for students to play intramurals, pick-up games or tournaments. When the College community comes together at the K.L.O. campus to celebrate convocation or new student orientation – they do not have an indoor central hub or gathering space.

“This is an extremely generous offer by the Serwas,” says Jackman. “We all need people in our corner, and this is an opportunity for the community to support a space that will foster student belonging and wellbeing. Your donation to Thrive Here will have double the impact, thanks to the Serwas, and we can begin building this transformational centre this year.”
The Serwa family’s tenure with Ƶ is a long one, and dates to when Cliff’s father Jack Serwa’s heavy-construction firm did the excavation and site preloading for the construction of the B.C. Vocational School, which opened in 1963, and is now known as Ƶ. Since then, the family has maintained close ties with the College as it has transformed through 60 years of history and community impact.

“It has really impressed me,” says Cliff, of the quality of students from Ƶ. “It doesn't matter whether it's the food industry, trades, sciences or the business programs, the students that have come out of Ƶ have really enhanced our community, have made it stronger, better, and greater in so many different ways.”

So he says it only makes sense, that as clearly as he saw the vision of Big White Ski Resort, a world class venue, while looking out at the Monashees, Cliff  equally can see the impact of this centre on students and the community at large: a place where students will be able to focus and pursue their studies more effectively, where the physical activity and social connection will reduce and relieve stress, where healthy bodies and healthy minds will go hand in hand.

To donate as part of the Serwa Spirit Match, go to okanagan.bc.ca/thrive-here.

Tags: Ƶ Foundation



Sign up for weekly stories


Communications student standing outside the Centre for Learning building at the Kelowna campus
Meet Ruth Gabriela Melo Flores

April 4, 2023

Q: What's your name? A: Ruth Gabriela Melo Flores Q: What's your hometown? A: Quito – Ecuador – South America Q: How did you end up at Ƶ? A: Well, I studied for a bachelor's degree in Law in Ecuador. Then, I worked for a while and got my Master's degree in Government and Culture of Organizations at the University of Pamplona.  When I returned to my country, professional opportunities arose for me. I mean, a Master's degree improved my career. Spain helped ...

Animation student
Artistic students design future careers in animation

June 7, 2022

Grads of Ƶ’s Animation Diploma program are finding their skills have never been in higher demand. First- and second-year students showed samples of their artwork and demo reels to industry partners at Ƶ’s annual Animation Industry Night on May 17. “Lots of the work was very professional,” says James Wood, Chair of Ƶ’s Animation Department. “Our program is short, but intense. The instructors make sure the students have a realistic understanding of what they need do to succeed in a competitive and demanding...

JAMK campus
Ƶ Business students embrace international study again

May 30, 2022

Business students from Ƶ are once again able to travel to Jyväskylä, Finland to experience an international summer school at the JAMK University of Applied Sciences.  Finland’s education system is widely regarded as one of the best in the world.  Ƶ Business Professor Blair Baldwin, who has taught Services Design at JAMK for several summers, says working in Finland has helped him innovate and create new teaching methodologies. “JAMK employs experiential learning across its curriculum,” he says. “They stress cri...

Enactus 2022
Enactus Ƶ tops the field, sets sights on national championships

May 27, 2022

Ƶ students will once again be competing for the Canadian title after qualifying for the Enactus National Exposition with a first-place finish in their league during the semi-final round. Enactus teams at post-secondary institutions across Canada competed virtually earlier this month, and Ƶ scooped up top position in the TD Entrepreneurship Challenge, and runner-up in the Scotiabank Climate Action Challenge for the Unusually Good Food Co. project. It also included national runner-up in Shaw and RBC accelerator...