In recognition of outstanding contributions to the College and its surrounding communities, two Okanagan College alumni have earned the top honours awarded by the Okanagan College Alumni Association (OCAA).
Kelowna’s Heather Stewart is this year’s recipient of the OCAA Distinguished Alumni Award that recognizes excellence in the areas of leadership, the environment, business or industry, public or community service, the arts, and/or support for Okanagan College. Sarah Comba, also from Kelowna, will receive the OCAA Young Alumni Award, which recognizes extraordinary contributions of an alumnus who is under the age of 35.
Stewart, a sought-after organizational development consultant and founder of Sage Transitions, was involved in facilitating development of the College's first strategic plan. Since then, she has remained engaged in the College’s ongoing strategic planning and has also helped to guide planning for the OC Foundation and the OCAA.
“Okanagan College has made such significant progress in the past decade, and it’s been a fabulous opportunity to be involved, in a small way, in that progress,” notes Stewart, who was a student at the Vernon campus in the early 1970s when classes were still held in the old army barracks.
After pursuing general studies at the College, Stewart went on to earn a Masters Degree in Distance Education and an Advanced Graduate Diploma in Distance Education Technology from Athabasca University. She taught in Okanagan College’s School of Business in the mid 2000s and continues to volunteer her time with the College in numerous ways. In 2013, when the College was celebrating 50 years of transforming lives and communities, Stewart was named one of the 50 People Who Made a Difference.
“I’m very honoured to be recognized,” says Stewart. “I believe strongly in supporting organizations where I can contribute to them and to our community. I feel we all need to find ways to give back to those groups and causes that are important to us.”
Stewart’s latest contribution to the College will make a difference in students’ lives for years to come. Last year, she launched a scholarship fund to assist automotive technician trades students.
Young Alumni Award recipient Sarah Comba, who earned her Business Administration Diploma in 2007, is another difference maker.
While in her second year of studies at the College, Comba partnered with the Alumni Association to launch the Pay it Forward campaign, which invited the College community to contribute useful items – clothing, food, toiletries – for the Kelowna Gospel Mission, Inn from the Cold, and other local organizations serving those in need in the community. More than a decade later, the campaign she founded is still going strong and Comba remains as inspired as ever by the people it brings her in touch with.
“I’ve learned that through simple, small acts of kindness we can have an impact on the lives of others,” says Comba. “That’s all there is to it. It’s such a simple idea: it’s not money, or time, it’s just a few small items, like a pair of socks, that can make all the difference in the world to someone.”
Comba admits her drive to give back pervades all elements of her life. She is also a member of the fundraising team at The City of West Kelowna Parks and Operations Department where she has worked as an Operator for six years.
“I suppose I’ve always been a nurturer in life. I always want to be taking care of people.”
Despite her already impressive track record of giving back in the community, Comba admits she was surprised to learn she’d been selected to receive the award.
“I was honestly shocked when I found out,” says Comba. “To me, this is such a simple act of kindness that I was surprised anyone would take note. But I am truly honoured and humbled by it.”
“Heather and Sarah have each focused a great deal of their time, expertise and energy into making Okanagan College and their community an even better place,” says Kara Kazimer, President of the Board, Okanagan College Alumni Association. “On behalf of my fellow OCAA board members, I commend both of this year’s award recipients on their accomplishments and the high bar they have set for our future OC alumni.”
Comba and Stewart’s achievements will be celebrated at the OCAA awards ceremony and reception at the College’s Kelowna campus on September 13, 2016. For more information about the awards and previous recipients, please visit www.okanagan.bc.ca/alumni.
There’s a new program at UBC’s Okanagan campus linking the tech industry to academia.
UBC's newly-introduced Bachelor of Media Studies (BMS) will begin accepting applications this month for entry in September 2017.
“Kelowna’s tech industry is flourishing, with start-ups alongside established companies like Disney and Bardel Entertainment having offices in the valley,” says Deborah Buszard, deputy vice-chancellor and Principal of UBC’s Okanagan campus. “The industry needs graduates with tech talent as well as creative and managerial skills and entrepreneurial spirit. Our new BMS program will provide the bridge from academic study to industry success.”
BMS graduates will become skilled in many high-demand areas, including game development, web design, interactive media, film production, and graphic design.
“The growth of the tech sector in the Okanagan, creating a base of highly skilled workers here, will encourage more companies to move into the area and take advantage of that pool of expertise,” says Robert Eggleston, acting dean of the Faculty of Creative and Critical Studies. “The Okanagan offers a highly desirable lifestyle, and if we can match that to industry growth and skilled graduates, the whole community will benefit.”
Students enrolled in the program will study digital media arts, visual art, computer science, the social sciences and humanities. Through applying to the co-op education program, BMS students also have the opportunity to gain hands-on work experience to expand their skills and understanding of new media and technology by working with a variety of companies in the field.
“When designing the BMS, it was important for us to consult and work with local players in the industry, to ensure we understood exactly what kind of graduates they would need now and in the future, to give our students the best chance to contribute to and succeed in this industry— an industry that is quickly becoming a major player in our region,” adds Eggleston.
Early supporters of the BMS include Accelerate Okanagan, a Kelowna non-profit that helps technology entrepreneurs start and grow their companies. A study conducted by Accelerate Okanagan shows the Okanagan tech industry brings in $1 billion to the economy annually.
“UBC’s BMS program will be integral in the role of training students for employment in the field of new media and Internet technology,” says Brea Retzlaff, Accelerate Okanagan's operations manager. “The program will give students the education they need, matched with real industry experience, which will make them highly desirable.”
The BMS is offered jointly by the Faculty of Creative and Critical Studies and the Irving K. Barber School of Arts and Sciences. To find out more about the program, visit: bms.ok.ubc.ca
Twenty-five years ago the first students from Toyota Technical College arrived at Okanagan College to embark on a summer program of collision repair training and learning English. It planted the seed for a relationship that would blossom to span oceans, cultures, and decades.
This year a record 110 students from the Japanese institution are completing the program, bringing the total to more than 1,000 participants since the program began in 1992. On Friday, Toyota Technical College President Kazunori Ikeyama joined Okanagan College President Jim Hamilton in congratulating students and the passionate instructors and sanseis who have helped to grow the program.
“Today we celebrate and reflect on this great friendship and the many students it has benefited over the years,” explained Ikeyama. “It is a program and a partnership that means a great deal to both institutions.”
“What started out as an educational partnership has become, in many ways, so much more,” noted Hamilton. “The cross-cultural exchange that takes place has enriched our campus community tremendously over the years. The more than 1,000 students and the many teachers who have come here to learn about Canadian culture have been, and will continue to be, our honoured guests, friends, learners, and teachers.”
Five years ago the two presidents celebrated the program’s 20th anniversary (and 700 students through the program) by planting a Japanese Cherry tree – or Sakura – at the Kelowna campus. The tree serves as a year-round reminder of the friendship between the two institutions.
Video from the event can be found here: https://youtu.be/l5uS0Ly1XRA.
With strong demand for construction trades workers across the province and a healthy residential construction market in the region, Okanagan College is offering up a second intake of a popular program designed to help Aboriginal students build jobsite skills, gain apprenticeship training and get on the fast track to employment.
In March 2015, the College delivered the new Red Seal Construction Craft Worker apprenticeship program. Last November, the College worked with the province to develop an intake customized specifically for those Aboriginal students who might benefit from cultural, financial and academic support alongside the apprenticeship training. Twelve First Nation and Metis students, aged 20-56, completed the program and many of them are now working full-time in construction in the Okanagan and Shuswap regions and in Fort McMurray.
Okanagan College, in partnership with BC Hydro, will offer a new intake of the program, Construction Craft Worker Aboriginal Bridging (CCWAB) from September 12 – December 16, 2016. Delivered at Westbank First Nation (WFN) and the College’s Kelowna campus, this hands-on program will cover a variety of topics, from trades math to carpentry skills to workforce training certifications. The Construction Craft Worker program is designed to benefit students with limited construction experience or those looking to refresh or enhance their skills. The program is tuition-free and includes work boots, bus passes, group study sessions, cultural activities, volunteer work experience and job search skills to remove potential barriers and support success.
“Working with, and learning from, the Indigenous community is one of the key directions in Okanagan College’s new strategic plan,” says Jim Hamilton, President of Okanagan College. “This course is an example of ongoing collaboration with our local bands and First Nation communities, employers and the province to provide training that is responsive to the needs of industry and highly supportive for our indigenous learners.”
The B.C. 2025 Labour Market Outlook predicts there will be about 123,000 job openings in trades, transportation and related occupations in the province over the next decade.
Building on the success of the first in-take of the program, the College, WFN, and BC Hydro will offer a number of additional supports for students—both in the classroom and on the jobsite—to promote their success in the program. Students enrolling in the course this September will once again receive one-on-one training and support from a dedicated Aboriginal peer mentor.
“Mentorship is an important element of the program,” explains Hamilton. “In addition to learning from experienced instructors and employers like BC Hydro, students also get to work beside a recent graduate who can share some insight into how to put their best foot forward in the industry.”
“By understanding the local environment and available resources, we are able to coordinate relevant training and education with local service providers, educators, and our own project teams,” says Laurie Sterritt, BC Hydro Director of Aboriginal Employment and Business Development. “With programs like the CCWAB, together we develop solutions that ensure local Aboriginal people gain the skills and experience needed to join our workforce and/or our contractor network.”
Randy Weatherbee, a member of the Okanagan Indian Band, was among the dozen students who completed Level 1 earlier this year. Shortly after, he landed a job as a construction craft worker with WIBCO construction, a First Nations construction company based in West Kelowna. Weatherbee is now working on the new WFN Youth Centre, only steps away from the WFN Community Centre where he and his fellow students were recognized for completing the program.
“I was looking to change careers and so the program gave me the opportunity to learn a lot and gain some valuable certifications in a short time,” says Weatherbee, who worked in IT for 15 years prior to enrolling. “Many of the other students had some construction experience but it was all new to me. The program is fast-paced and focused on skills that employers want to see on the resume. It helped me get a foot in the door in the industry.”
Jay Charleyboy graduated the program with Weatherbee and now works alongside him at the WFN project site. A member of the Ulkatcho First Nation and a single father of three, Charleyboy says the program has helped him advance his career in the construction industry.
“I’ve been in construction for a long time, but the program was a great way to relearn skills,” says Charleyboy, who after earning his Occupational First Aid Level 2 was hired on as the Construction Safety Officer and First Aid Attendant for the project.
“There’s a ton of hands-on training, from carpentry and joinery to pipelaying,” explains Charleyboy. “The course has helped me get into the industry again, refreshed. I’m excited to keep learning, keep building my career, and keep building a better life for myself and my family.”
More information about the Construction Craft Worker program is available at www.okanagan.bc.ca/trades.
A former Chief of the Splats’in Indian Band and a Vernon lawyer – both with established community service profiles – are joining the Okanagan College Board of Governors.
Gloria Morgan, who was Chief of the Splats’in Indian Band from 2001 to 2005, has been appointed for two years to the College’s Board, while Riminder Gakhal’s term is to Dec. 31, 2017.
Gakhal is an associate at Davidson Pringle LLP in Vernon and also serves as a member of the Board of Directors for Vernon and District Immigrant Services and as a director of the Affiliation of Multicultural Societies and Services Agencies, which is a province-wide association working with more than 70 member agencies who serve immigrants and work to build culturally-inclusive communities.
Morgan has been an RCMP officer, a criminal defence lawyer and a Crown Prosecutor. She was the President of the Enderby and District Chamber of Commerce, and member of the RCMP’s E Division Aboriginal Advisory Committee, and served on the board of the Provincial Community Co-ordination for Women’s Safety. She was recently appointed to the BC Patient Safety and Quality Council and serves on the BC Patient Care and Quality Review Board. She was the recipient of the Community Leader Awards – Community Builder award 2016, North Okanagan.
Gakhal grew up in Vernon, and completed her Bachelor of Commerce degree at the University of Northern British Columbia. Upon graduation from UNBC, she worked for TD Canada Trust as a loans and investment officer before attending law school at the University of Sussex in the United Kingdom. She was called to the British Columbia bar in 2015.
“I’m looking forward to being involved with the College,” says Gakhal.
Morgan sees the importance of education for Canada’s Aboriginal community and is eagerly anticipating working on a board that can help further build access and support success for Aboriginal students and for other students who may face obstacles. “I am so impressed with the high number of Aboriginal students enrolled at the College,” she says. (More than 1,500 Aboriginal students attended Okanagan College in 2015-16.) “I honestly believe knowledge is power – power for self-improvement.”
“I know that both Gloria and Riminder will add to the strengths of our current board,” observes Connie Denesiuk, Chair of the Okanagan College Board of Governors. “Their experience, enthusiasm and energy will be welcome.”
Ryan Fipke is a confirmed believer in the future of the Okanagan’s wine industry, and a staunch advocate of educating yourself to take advantage of the growing opportunities.
As tasting room supervisor and sales co-ordinator for Tantalus Vineyards and a long-time resident of the region, Fipke has witnessed the growth of the industry, and sees more ahead, as the chance blossoms to introduce more Canadians to the wines of British Columbia.
(Recently, the B.C., Quebec and Ontario governments announced they would make interprovincial sales easier by removing trade barriers.)
“Definitely a good thing,” says Fipke. “The easier it is sell our wines to more Canadians, the better it will be for us.”
Fipke is well-poised to be among those in the industry who can benefit, and he believes education for industry professionals will continue to be a critical factor if the Okanagan is to continue growing its reputation – both across Canada and internationally – as a producer of world-class wines.
Having completed three of the wine-industry certificate programs Okanagan College offers: Wine Sales, Viticulture, and Winery Assistant, Fipke is quick to point out the advantage gained by wearing many hats in the industry. The proof of his approach is to be found in the career he has carved for himself at Tantalus. “It definitely set me up for a management role.”
His career at Tantalus is a little like a homecoming for him. While his passion for wine was ignited by his father’s interest and appreciation for wine, it was cemented when he volunteered to help with a harvest at Tantalus years ago. “That gave me a taste for the industry.”
From there, the course was set: education soon became blended with the practical experience offered by the College’s programs.
“The practicums are one of the best things about the programs,” says Fipke. “It’s where you get the hands-on experience and where you get to learn from the experts.”
“We are really focused on answering the skills needs of the industry and addressing the career aspirations of prospective students,” explains Jonathan Rouse, Okanagan College’s Director of Food, Wine and Tourism. “Students like Ryan epitomize the enthusiasm and passion that make the region’s wine industry so vibrant and if we can serve them with the education, training and applicable work-integrated learning opportunities, we will.”
Okanagan College offers a number of certificate and short-term courses linked to the wine industry, from a free online program intended for hospitality industry servers (but of interest to anyone who wants to know more about B.C.’s wines – wineserver.okanagan.bc.ca), to the three certificate programs Fipke took. To find out more visit okanagan.bc.ca/fwt or okanagan.bc.ca/cs
UBC engineers have created a tool that will help municipalities measure water quality, as a way to ensure clean and safe drinking water is coming out of the taps.
Nilufar Islam, who recently received her PhD from UBC Okanagan, has spent the better part of her career creating methods to improve drinking water quality. Working with Professor Rehan Sadiq, associate dean of the School of Engineering and Professor Manuel Rodriguez from Laval University, she developed a water quality index to improve the interpretation of drinking water quality in distribution networks.
Disinfectants, commonly used in water to ensure it is safe to drink, can react with natural organic matters in the water, or the distribution system, to create disinfection by-products (DBPs). These DBPs including trihalomethanes and haloacetic acids are known to have potential reproductive and development effects.
“It’s like a catch-22,” says Islam. “Disinfection is necessary to ensure microbiological water quality, but it can produce DBPs when used excessively. DBPs in municipal water may potentially lead to detrimental health impacts. The question became, how can we make sure that our drinking water contains DBPs within acceptable limit without degrading microbiological water quality?”
Noting it’s almost impossible for the general consumer to interpret complex regulatory violations, Islam and Sadiq created a tool, known as the non-compliance potential (NCP) index, to make interpreting measurements of diverse water quality parameters as easy as possible. The index has been used recently to study water distribution systems in many Canadian cities.
The NCP index is designed to merge difficult to understand data into simple indicators that show municipalities whether their water systems are, or are likely to, contain unwanted byproducts that are created when disinfectants react with organic materials in the water system.
“As many small municipalities do not have the technical and financial resources to collect and decipher water quality data on a regular basis, tools such as the NCP index could help them target how and where they spend their time and money,” explains Sadiq.
In assessing the benefit of the NCP index, researchers measured water quality at various points in several water distribution systems. They then measured the systems to determine which areas had or were most likely to have compromised water quality.
“With so many small municipalities required to operate and maintain water systems, we feel it is important to ensure they have the tools to understand how their systems are operating and where best to target their capital investments,” adds Sadiq. “It wouldn’t be possible to examine the whole system at a time, so helping municipal engineers better prioritize operations is a good way to ensure our water quality is maintained.”
According to the 2016 Canadian Infrastructure Report Card, municipal governments own nearly 60 per cent of Canada’s core infrastructure, including $207 billion worth of potable (drinkable) water infrastructure.
The report card, developed by the Canadian Construction Association, Canadian Public Works Association, Canadian Society for Civil Engineering, and Canadian Federation of Municipalities ranked 29 per cent of Canadian drinking water infrastructure as fair, poor or very poor.
The study, funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, was recently published in the journal Environmental Monitoring and Assessment.
A decade of teaching Okanagan shutterbugs the intricacies and nuances of their cameras, and opening their lenses to the creative capabilities of digital photography has not dimmed Tom Cooper’s enthusiasm for teaching or photography.
The professional photographer and instructor in Okanagan College’s Continuing Studies and Corporate Training department is as keen as ever on helping photography enthusiasts make the most of their tools and talents.
“Photography is a lifelong interest for me that persists,” he says. “I still have photographs from when I was in university – more than a few decades ago – that I enjoy looking at.”
“Teaching at Okanagan College for the past 10 years has helped fuel that interest, as I watch a whole variety of different people discover things about photography and their cameras.”
“I learn from students too – I end up probing the limits of my craft.”
Cooper’s Kelowna classes focus on digital single-lens reflex (DSLR) camera essentials, creative modes and advanced features and functions.
“Digital photography is not rocket science, but it is complex,” says Cooper, who has been balancing his time teaching at OC with duties at Red Deer College in Alberta, where he is in his sixth year of teaching the Digital Photography Certificate there, which is delivered online.
“There are five skills to be a good photographer,” explains Cooper:
- Camera comfort
- Photo editing
- Photographic techniques
- Structure (composition), and
- Developing a creative eye.
Providing students the technical skills and theory isn’t enough to help them become great photographers, says Cooper. “You also have to create an environment to allow them to take risks and experiment, because that’s how you learn.”
It’s not who you might expect who signs up for his courses. Most students, he notes, have had their cameras for a couple of years.
Cooper’s passion for teaching predated his first DSLR camera. He was a computer-based training course developer and instructor for the Canadian Armed Forces and a community college instructor before retiring to the Okanagan in the early part of this century.
For more information on Cooper’s classes and other courses offered by Okanagan College’s Continuing Studies and Corporate Training department, you can visit Okanagan.bc.ca/cs or watch for College’s fall brochure, being distributed by mail and available online at tiny.cc/occsfall2016.
A UBC professor’s flax research could one day help Canadian farmers grow a car fender.
In a recent study, UBC researcher Michael Deyholos identified the genes responsible for the bane of many Canadian flax farmers’ existence; the fibres in the plant's stem.
“These findings have allowed us to zero in the genetic profile of the toughest part of this plant and may one day help us engineer some of that toughness out,” says Deyholos, a biology professor at UBC's Okanagan campus. “With further research, we might one day be able to help farmers make money off a waste material that wreaks havoc on farm equipment and costs hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars to deal with.”
As part of his research, Deyholos and his former graduate student at the University of Alberta dissected thousands of the plant’s stem under a microscope in order to identify which genes in the plant's makeup were responsible for the growth of the stem, and which weren’t.
Due to the length of the Canadian prairie’s growing season, where flax is grown, farmers typically burn the stems, known as flax straw, as opposed to harvesting the material. In many European countries, flax straw is used as an additive in paper, plastics and other advanced materials such as those used in the production of automobiles.
Currently, Canadian flax is used only for the value of its seeds, which can be eaten or broken down into flaxseed oil. Flaxseed oil is used in the manufacturing of paints, linoleum, and as a key element in the manufacturing of packaging materials and plastics.
According to the Flax Council of Canada, Canada is one of the largest flax producers in the world with the nation’s prairie provinces cultivating 816,000 tonnes of the plant in 2014/15 on 1.6 million acres of land.
Ron Glave initially got into construction because he needed something to do during the off-season from skiing. Twenty years later, he’s passionate about having a lasting effect on the construction industry’s health and safety culture.
Glave is the Occupational Health and Safety Manager for the Vic Van Isle Group based in Revelstoke, B.C. He’s also currently completing the Occupational Health & Safety (OH&S) certificate via an online course with Okanagan College, and will graduate this December.
“The first five-to-ten years I worked in construction there was still very much a culture of male bravado,” says Glave. “People were regularly taking unnecessary risks and nobody was coming around asking ‘where’s your protection?’ Now, our industry is changing and maturing. Safety leadership is more common than before. I think it’s more important to come from a genuine concern for everybody’s wellbeing rather than strictly from a compliance standpoint. Stronger cultures also develop from logic and reason rather than shall and must.”
Glave moved to Revelstoke nine years ago from Whistler, where he had just completed his first real safety gig at the 2010 Olympic Nordic Centre. His family had recently relocated to Revelstoke, and Glave, after years of industrial carpentry, followed his father’s recommendation to apply with Vic Van Isle Construction.
“I distinctly remember meeting with their safety manager, and being asked the standard interview question ‘Where do you see yourself in three to five years?’ I answered: ‘I want your job.’ And ultimately I got it.”
The company Glave began working for was rapidly expanding – going from a crew of seven to over 100 in 18 months on the Revelstoke Mountain Resort (RMR) project alone. Nine years later, the Vic Van Isle group has had hundreds of employees, with work in B.C., Alberta, and Ontario, and divisions in commercial/ industrial construction, independent Rona Building Centers, architectural millwork manufacturing, and heavy equipment rental, mechanics, and welding.
With strong work ethic and a variety of skills, Glave moved from taking care of first aid and carpentry for the first six months of the RMR project to spending 12 months as the onsite safety manager. Then in an unexpected turn of events the 2008 recession hit, and he was promoted into construction management.
“Health and safety is definitely a great field to be in,” says Glave. “It’s growing, it’s necessary, and it’s rewarding. It’s great knowing that I’m making a difference, and that over time all the little wins, and big wins, are positively changing the culture.”
But there certainly are challenges.
“It can be difficult at times. I’m not in the make money column, I’m in the save money column – and sometimes it’s hard for people to see the value right away. It also can take time, patience and persistence to turn around a very aged safety culture.”
One of the reasons Glave is taking the OH&S course at the College is to prepare for his Canadian Registered Safety Professional, which is a professional designation that will increase his value to his company and the industry. Another thing that appeals to Glave is the networking opportunities the program provides, particularly because the health and safety field is mostly lacking in available mentors.
“You can feel like you’re on an island by yourself. Unless you work with a large organization with multiple safety professionals that you can train under, you’re left sourcing a lot of important information on how to do things on your own. It’s great to be able to meet other safety professionals, connect to mentors, build a rapport, and know that we’re there to support each other. It definitely gives you the confidence and feeling of support to deal with the variety of situations coming your way.”
Glave has an insider perspective on Okanagan College. He’s worked with them previously while building the Human Resources department within Vic Van Isle, assisting with the College’s Seven Weeks of Certificates (employment skills development), and Fast Track program. He’s instructed employment and start-up skills programs at the College. He recommends his staff for professional development in office skills, project management, first aid, and he currently sits on the OC advisory committee board.
He credits his close connection to the College, especially his membership on the advisory committee, to his unique perspective as to why he thinks Okanagan College is so valuable.
“I find the College very forward-thinking, engaged, and supportive of the communities they’re in. On the advisory committee, I get to see the thinking and planning that goes into the community involvement initiatives, as well as how to Okanagan College stays competitive and relevant.”
As much as Glave is enjoying the OH&S online course, there’s definitely a drawback: staying focused during the summer takes additional discipline.
“It’s not a heavy workload, it’s just allocating the time to be consistent (studying and completing assignments) while balancing out the rest of life’s responsibilities. It also matters a lot what else you have going on in your life as in my case: working full-time, family, volunteering, relationships, friends, active playing, building a horse barn and a fourth season of beekeeping. In the end though, I know it’s all very worthwhile.”
To find out more about Okanagan College’s Occupational Health & Safety certificate, visit www.okanagan.bc.ca/ohs.
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