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Success is Giving to Others: Albert El Tassi

December 11, 2020


The man responsible for manufacturing Red River College’s new branded face masks is no stranger to generosity.

Albert El Tassi, CEO of Peerless Garments, believes that helping people is the best thing you can do for yourself and for your community. Since immigrating to Winnipeg from Lebanon in 1969 he has made a strong commitment to supporting anybody in need – especially students, healthcare workers and refugees.

“Refugees are important in my life – everybody should have a shelter, everybody should have a roof over their heads. Refugees have been denied that. If you can save one life you can save an entire humanity,” he said. “It doesn’t matter what part of the world they come from, we don’t discriminate. If we can help, I’m there to help. If we leave this world better than when we came, I will be happy.”

El Tassi has been a champion of RRC’s Student Refugee Program since 2015, and has been instrumental in providing financial and cultural support for the students who have had the opportunity to study at the College through a partnership with the World University Service of Canada (WUSC).

On top of financial assistance, El Tassi has provided each student with a winter coat, shared important information about how to get around in Winnipeg, and introduced them to Winnipeg’s Muslim community through weekly services at the mosque he attends.

“I believe in education. Without education the world will be much darker,” he said. “I love helping students, refugees or not, so they can advance in life.”

Beyond RRC, El Tassi has donated to support students at the University of Manitoba, University of Winnipeg, and College Universite St. Boniface – he also opened Al Hijra Islamic School, Manitoba’s first Muslim-faith elementary school, in 1996.

He and his wife, Samira, have also donated to a number of charities dedicated to improving the lives of children and defending human rights in Manitoba and around the world.

Earlier this year, El Tassi was also part of an effort made by Winnipeg’s Lebanese community to provide relief and aid to those who were impacted by the explosion in Beirut, Lebanon.

“When you enjoy giving more than you enjoy receiving, then you enjoy life,” he said. “The amount is irrelevant. If you have an extra dollar, you can give an extra dollar.”

El Tassi said that he doesn’t expect anything in return from the people he helps, but is always happy to see a student succeed in their career and give back to their community.

“I encourage everybody to help humanity where help is needed,” he said.


RRC branded face masks available now:

Red River College branded facemasks are available in two styles at the Campus Store.

Black fitted masks are available for $6.79 and Navy Blue folded rectangle masks are available for $8.79. Both styles are two layer and non-medical with a molded nose strip at the top.
Order online at:


The Perfect Gift For The Man Who Loves To Give

August 26, 2020

Valued Industry Partner and Foundational Donor, Raj Kulathungam poses with his daughter, Trisha Kulathungam.

Trisha Kulathungam describes her father, Raj Kulathungam, as someone who is always thinking of others, who cares about his community, and who gives the best gifts. When deciding what to get the man who loves giving for his birthday in 2017, she established a scholarship in his name for students in Red River College’s Welding program. The gift was such a hit, she established a second scholarship for students in the Electrical program for his birthday in 2019.

“He was so excited to be able to give scholarships to students. It’s the greatest gift for the guy who gives the best gifts,” she said. “He never got the opportunity to fully complete his education, so he’s always encouraged people to obtain higher education.”

Raj formed SCT Welding, Laser & Manufacturing in 1992 and currently manages the business with his kids. The 75,000 square-foot shop specializes in heavy duty, small batch runs for the automotive, transportation and agriculture sectors and employs 75 people (plus another 10 at Strong Electric).

In 2016, Raj also launched Strong Electric Manufacturing, which provides standard and custom engineered solutions for the commercial, industrial, utility and mining markets. The business is not limited to electrical products, but also specializes in manufacturing, painting, light assembly and bus fabrication.

Donor, Raj Kulathungam.

Trisha said that her father is very compassionate and supportive as a business leader, which has created a strong working environment of employees who feel valued and have worked under Raj for many years.

“Everybody is treated like family. At our shop (during COVID) we have not had one layoff, and that speaks to the fact that no matter what, Raj is doing whatever he can to save jobs,” she said.

Trisha said that one of the reasons she and her family want to encourage young people to enter the trades because they know the demand is there and will continue to be there due to an aging skilled trades workforce getting ready to retire.

“There’s a lot of people who encourage university instead of college, but it’s important for young people to know there are options,” she said. “For people who would rather use their hands to build something than sit at a desk all day, trades are the bread and butter of our economy. When we work with students from the College I can see how creative they are at finding solutions to issues in trades and how we produce things – it’s a new way of thinking that will move our business and our industry forward.”

She said the biggest thing she’s learned from her dad is that the best thing you can do is help other people, and she hopes she can pass that sentiment along to the students who receive this award.

“Raj is dope,” she said. “He deserves to have something like this to honour his legacy, his work ethic and the way he treats people.”


Award Description:

Raj Kulathungam Craftsman Award for Welding and Electrical
Automatic Selection

Two $1000 awards for Welding and two $750 awards for Electrical have been established to celebrate an activist, community leader, and successful businessman Raj Kulathungam.   These awards will support promising craftsmen graduating from the Welding and Electrical programs at Red River College. Raj believes that “welding is a talent, but it’s much more than that when you do it well”. The recipients of this award will be selected by the faculty, and will have displayed creativity in welding or Electrical projects, leadership skills and helpfulness to others, as well as showing high potential for a career in the welding or electrical industries. One recipient will be selected annually from each class.


Messages of Gratitude

August 4, 2020

Thank you again to everyone who has contributed a generous donation to the COVID-19 Emergency Student Support Fund. Together we have raised more than $350,000 to help students who have been financially impacted by COVID-19.

The following messages of gratitude have been submitted by recipients of the fund:


I want to take the time to express a massive thank you for the generosity you’ve shown me during this tough time. The bursary that I recieved thanks to you is directly helping to ease some of the financial burden that the pandemic is causing in my life right now, and for that I am truly grateful. Again, thank you so much.

Austin, Medical Laboratory Sciences




Today I am very glad to receive this bursary which is motivating me to do better in my future endeavours. Moreover, now I will try to achieve best merits in my upcoming courses, so that I do a proper use of this bursary.

Furthermore, these kinds of bursary is very much encouraging to all of the students of the Red River College who are in need at this current pandemic. Alongside to that, this overall initiative by the Red River College is very much supportive to all the students like us.

Nonetheless, I would like to show my gratitude towards you who has given me this wonderful bursary and would like to let you know that you have also helped me to put on more step forward to my future goal of being successful.

Mohammed Mahir, Business Technology Management



Thank you for the Bursary. It has meant so much to me and my family. It has taken some stress off of our backs to put food on the table and pay bills. I pray you are blessed in return. I truly believe what goes around comes around.

Dana, Woodworking and Cabinetry Technology





I would like to thank RRC for the help that was given to me during this challenging time that the world is going through. I am deeply grateful for this support that is being very useful. I am very proud to study at an institution that thinks about the welfare of its students.

Greisi Keli, Business Administration







I wanted to send my sincerest thanks to you for this gift. I am a father of a 2 year old girl who I sobered up 4 days before she was born after a long battle with meth addiction. I went back to school, got five A+ and one A this term but the virus has left a lot of opportunity postponed. This money will help her and I stay safe, healthy, and happy until normal resumes, and I can give back the kindness I’ve received.

Jameson, Occupational Health and Safety





Thank you so much. Me and my kids appreciate this money now more than ever. Having some financial stability during these uncertain times really takes a huge weight off my shoulders. Thank you.

Faith, Culinary Arts






As of today there are still students who need financial support as they enter the Fall 2020 term at Red River College. Donate today to make a difference.




Innovation Centre Update

July 1, 2020

Red River College’s Innovation Centre has reached new heights as the 100,000 square-foot building’s roofline has been installed.

Akman Construction has completed the superstructure of the four-storey space, which is set to open in 2021 and will be a hub for business, technology and creative arts programs.

Two of the building’s many distinctive features include photovoltaic panels created in Denmark, which will line the building’s front façade, and a 1,000 square-foot painting created by Anishinabee artist Jackie Traverse, which will be installed over the next year. (See cover image.)

The soon-to-be-constructed overhead walkway linking the old and new, along with a proposed public plaza, will consolidate the downtown campus and help establish Red River College as a major force in the rejuvenation of the historic Exchange District.

Photos courtesay of Gerry Kopelow

Bockstael Gives Back For The Future Of Skilled Trades In Manitoba

July 1, 2020

John BockstaelWhen John Bockstael made the decision to donate to Red River College’s Skilled Trades and Technology Centre, he knew he would be providing an opportunity for generations of Manitobans to receive high-quality education and training.

“It’s not basement learning,” says Bockstael, the President and CEO of Bockstael Construction Ltd. “The College’s programs are hands-on right from the beginning and highly practical. There’s a direct correlation between the classroom process and what’s done on a work site.”

Bockstael was the first donor to the 104,000 square-foot facility, which opened its doors to students in Fall 2018. The building acts as a celebration of the trades and technologies, and allows the College to train an additional 1,000 students every year.

“The skilled trades need talent. It takes knowledgeable people — you have to have a good head on your shoulders,” he says. “Anybody who gets into construction now is getting into it at a time where we’re becoming more and more advanced in our technologies and processes. You still have to pound a nail and drill a hole as part of the job — but what we need is highly skilled, quick thinking people.”

Bockstael Construction has been in operation since 1912, and has built and renovated many prominent buildings in Manitoba, including the VIA Rail Winnipeg Union Station, the Canada Games Sport for Life Centre, and the newest, the Richardson Innovation Centre. In 2009, Bockstael completed construction on RRC’s Jan den Oudsten Vehicle Technology and Research Centre (formerly the Heavy Equipment and Transportation Centre), one of the first education centres in Manitoba to receive LEED® Silver certification from the Canada Green Building Council.

It’s rewarding for Bockstael to be able to give back, knowing that his future employees will be trained in the STTC. He says that in an ever-changing industry, RRC has been very responsive in advancing the needs of businesses, and has adapted its programs to be able to train new skilled workers, while providing re-skilling for workers who are in the middle of their careers.

“At the time we committed to our pledge, we were experiencing a real shortage of skilled trades workers,” he says. “In a way I was fulfilling a business need. Your business thrives and is driven by the workforce that you hire.”

Bockstael says that although construction has adapted to include more technology, the satisfaction of a job well done remains at the core for skilled workers. “There’s so much independence that individual tradespeople can derive for themselves. People can look back when a project is done and say ‘I was a part of that’ — there’s a lot of pride in their work,” he says. “That’s something tangible at the end of the day that seems to resonate with everyone from engineers to labourers.”

The Bockstael Construction Labs are located at the east end of the Skilled Trades and Technology Centre, and are used by hundreds of students every day.

We are grateful to John Bockstael and Bockstael Construction Ltd. for their contribution to the Skilled Trades and Technology Centre. Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, we had to postpone the celebration honouring Bockstael Construction Ltd. — and all donors to the STTC — originally planned for April 15, 2020. We will reschedule this event when it is safe to celebrate together.

Finding her voice: Inaugural recipient of award for student journalists credits CreComm with helping shape her future

June 29, 2020

Red River College Creative Communications Graduate, Rachel Young.

The first recipient of a new award for journalism students at Red River College credits her industry training with providing an entirely new outlook on life.

“My experience in this program has helped me to find my voice and my talents,” says soon-to-be RRC grad Rachel Young, who this spring received the first-ever Dawna Friesen Global News Award for Journalism.

“Prior to Creative Communications, I was lost.”

The new award — named for Friesen, a fellow CreComm grad (1984) now serving as Global’s national news anchor — was established as part of the organization’s commitment to local news and community involvement, and as a means of encouraging the next generation of reporters.

The recognition caps off a whirlwind period of transition and growth for Young, who only three years ago was unhappily working a full-time job in retail. She’d graduated from university, but found herself unmotivated to do anything with her degree, and in her own words, settling for a career that wouldn’t challenge or inspire her.

Then she learned about Creative Communications at RRC. Though she initially assumed entry was unattainable, she enrolled on a whim, and was accepted.

“My outlook on life changed,” she explains. “I was ready to fully dedicate the next two years of my life to achieving this goal.

“I wanted to use this opportunity to change my future. I gave up the steady paycheck and, with the support of my partner and family, I chose to invest in my future.”

At 26, Young is a few years older than some of her classmates. Her fears about returning to school after years away had given her a drive to succeed, but in a somewhat ironic turn, she found her first forays into the world of news gathering a bit daunting.

“Journalism was the class I feared the most,” says Young. “After one of my first assignments, my instructor Joanne Kelly told me that it was more about the progress I made, rather than the mark on the paper. This advice carried me through to where I am today.”

Buoyed by Kelly’s mentorship, Young honed her storytelling skills even further in her second year, working harder and asking more questions as a Media Production major.

“My skills improved and I gained confidence after every assignment,” she says. “Today I look forward to a career in broadcast journalism. I want to meet people, share their stories and be inspired by the world around me.”

Recipient of the Dawna Friesen Global News Award for Journalism.

Young was one of a number of second-year CreComm students to apply for the new award, which includes a $3,000 scholarship. A shortlist of three applicants was presented to Global reps for consideration, and while their decision wasn’t easy, they say Young’s eagerness to adapt put her ahead of the pack.

“Over the course of the interviews and based on the written essay, Rachel showed not only a willingness to adapt, but also to learn and grow,” says Michael Goldberg, executive producer at Global Winnipeg. “Adaptability is one of the most important lessons someone can learn as preparation for this industry. How we work now is not how we worked five years ago, and will not be how we work in five years’ time.”

Citing Global’s role as an industry leader — both in working with new technology, and evolving in step with the changing media landscape — Goldberg says reporters must be willing to fight to have their stories heard, noting journalism can change governments, help drive policy and improve lives, providing its practitioners remain committed.

It’s a standard set proudly by Friesen herself, who over the decades has gone from smaller rural outlets to a gig in the U.K., later landing at her current position, which finds her delivering the news to hundreds of thousands of Canadian households each evening.

“It’s Red River College that launched me on the road to where I am today,” Friesen said in 2011, two years after being named one of RRC’s Distinguished Alumni. “The same basic principles I learned at school … are the same basic story-telling skills I use today: getting the facts right, double-sourcing, diligence [and] patience.”

Friesen began her broadcasting career at stations in Brandon, Saskatoon and Winnipeg, later covering national news and federal elections for CBC and CTV. In 1999, she took a position as a London-based correspondent with NBC, covering some of the ensuing decade’s top stories, including the fall of Iran and the struggle to bring peace to Afghanistan.

Her part in team coverage of Barack Obama’s historic presidential victory earned her an Emmy award in 2009.

“Dawna’s career has taken her around the world, and now has her anchoring Global’s national news broadcast,” says Goldberg. “She is a fantastic role model that we hope many will look at and try to emulate.”

RRC receives $50,000 from C.P. Loewen Family Foundation to Help Southeast Manitoba Students Affected by COVID-19

June 18, 2020

Red River College (RRC) students in Manitoba’s Southeast region that have been financially impacted by COVID-19 can apply for relief, thanks to a $50,000 donation from the C.P. Loewen Family Foundation.

The 50 bursaries, valued at $1,000 each will be awarded to students who reside in Southeast Manitoba, who complete a general scholarship application form and include a one-page statement outlining financial hardships they’ve faced due to COVID-19.

“This contribution from the Loewen Foundation will have a tremendous impact on RRC students who live in Southeastern Manitoba. We know that students have been struggling, and receiving this bursary could make the difference in someone’s decision to continue with their studies in the next term,” said Dr. Christine Watson, Interim President and CEO at RRC. “Red River College is thankful for the donors, staff, alumni and community members that have stepped up over the last few months to ensure our impacted students receive the relief they need.”

Donor, John Loewen from the C.P. Loewen Family Foundation

John Loewen, executive director of the Loewen Foundation said the decision to donate was easy, and that he knows the support will have an immediate impact on the students’ lives, allowing them to focus on their goals in education and training.

“If you consider a foundation and endowment as a rainy day fund, well, it’s raining right now,” he said. “We were very impressed with how quickly the College moved to support its students, and looked to past donors who could redirect their support.”

Before creating its COVID-19 bursary, the Loewen Foundation has provided bursaries to 26 students at RRC in the last five years. Loewen said that in spite of how challenging these times are, he hopes that providing educational support will have a lasting positive impact on the recipients.

“The hope is that this provides an example for the students to carry with them through their lives – how to be selfless during a crisis,” he said. “There’s going to be other issues over our respective lives, where we will need to change how we do things and adapt – so let’s do it with humanity, integrity and respect for others.”

The Loewen Foundation believes that supporting educational organizations helps to create a knowledgeable, skilled community – which enriches the lives of everyone.

For more information about the award, please visit Awards, Bursaries and Scholarships.

To date, Red River College has raised more than $363,500 towards supporting students who have been financially impacted by COVID-19. While many donors have provided support for students in recent weeks, the College is unable to keep up with student demand for financial aid and is currently experiencing a backlog of applications.

Anyone wishing to donate to the COVID-19 Emergency Student Support Fund is encouraged to donate now or visit the COVID-19 Emergency Student Support Fund page to learn more.

Giving Back Strengthens Connection to College at Dillon Consulting Limited

June 18, 2020

Staff from Dillon Consulting’s Winnipeg office take part in a recent Earth Day community clean up.

For employees at Dillon Consulting Limited, a desire to enrich the student experience at Red River College (RRC) led to a recent donation to College’s general fund.

There are 12 RRC graduates who currently work at Dillon’s Winnipeg office, all of which have maintained a close connection to the College by participating in student information sessions, classroom presentations, projects with partner organizations and sitting on advisory committees.

“We have strong ties to the College, so donating seemed like a good way to give back to an educational facility that many of us attended,” said Tina Sontag, Associate at Dillon Consulting Limited.

Sontag graduated from the Civil Engineering Technology program in 2014, after a successful career in hairstyling, and was hired at Dillon shortly after.

“I like working with people and numbers – problem solving,” she said. “The education I got from RRC was a springboard into the consulting field. I’m very happy where I am.”

The donation was made possible through the Environment & Community Investment Fund, which is part of the organization’s Corporate Social Responsibility initiative. Since 2005, Dillon has provided more than $300,000 in scholarships across Canada, including contributions to Indspire bursaries for indigenous learners.

Sontag said donations and volunteerism bring the staff at Dillon together and creates a positive work environment.

“Our staff are quite engaged in our communities, and we make our decisions on which organizations to support based on staff buy-in,” she said. “There is the desire to make an impact in our staff, and it’s important that we are able to match their enthusiasm and connect with our communities.”

Dillon staff have volunteered their time at Winnipeg Harvest, Bike Week Winnipeg, Wrench and organizations that help Winnipeg’s underserved communities.

Sontag said she is proud to be able to support students at RRC and looks forward to meeting the next generation of skilled workers.

Other pillars of Dillon’s Corporate Social Responsibility initiative include a commitment to its workplaces, the environment and the marketplace. Learn more by visiting

Donor Appeal: A letter to RRC alumni from Riva Harrison

May 6, 2020

Dear fellow alumni,

Red River College students need our help. I wanted to share why I chose to donate to the RRC COVID-19 Emergency Student Support Fund – and hope that my story will encourage you to do the same.

With the support of some very generous donors – including corporate partners, RRC alumni, staff and community members – the fund has quickly grown to over $300,000 and the College has been able to help more than 335 students who have been financially impacted by COVID-19.

But there are hundreds of students who still need our support – and that is why I’m asking for your help.

The pandemic has hit students particularly hard as the part-time jobs they rely on to cover rent and food costs are the type of jobs that were first to be reduced as a result of social distancing measures. While the economy is starting to re-open, it will be months before many of these jobs return.

As an RRC employee, I am in a unique position to see what our students are going through. Many of them live alone and don’t have family to turn to for support. Some are from out of town, or even out of country, and don’t have established support networks. Others are single parents trying to juggle course work, child care and job loss.

Every day students are making the choice between paying rent and putting food on the table for their family.

I donated to the fund as a proud RRC alumni member, a graduate of Creative Communications – and I would not be where I am today if it were not for my education at RRC. I am forever grateful for the skills I learned some 30 years ago. Without question, what I learned helped me establish myself throughout my career, first in journalism and later in strategic communications.

Financial stress places a heavy burden on students and without our help there are some who will fall through the cracks and not realize their potential.

As a lifelong Manitoban, I run into proud RRC alumni on a daily basis in virtually every industry. We are one of the most important engines that drives our economy. And we will be even more essential to the growth and prosperity of our community as we rebuild post COVID-19.

Manitoba needs RRC grads.

RRC helped launched my career and put me in a position to give back to a student in need. Please consider doing the same – no donation is too small as we work together to rise to the challenges of this unprecedented time.

Riva Harrison
CreComm 1988

Donate now at

RRC’s Response to COVID-19

March 24, 2020

A message from Dr. Christine Watson,
Red River College’s Interim President and CEO

Dear donors, alumni and friends of Red River College,

I am reaching out today to share with you our efforts to continue operating while protecting the health and safety of our students, staff, faculty and broader community during this time of unprecedented challenge and uncertainty.

We are taking every step possible to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and to safeguard the RRC community. This has meant a rapid shift to alternative program and service delivery for students, which has allowed the majority of faculty and staff to work from home while we close our campuses to classes and public events.

This is allowing us to continue to do what we do best – train the next generation of Manitoba’s workforce, which we will be extremely important for our province and our country as we rebuild our economy following this crisis.

I am so very proud of our efforts. This would be a significant undertaking in the best of times, never mind where we find ourselves today as a community.

Responding to this situation, which is often changing by the hour, has us drawing on the values we hold dear at the College. By tapping into our spirit of innovation, flexibility, teamwork and problem-solving, we’re forging a new path to ensure our students can continue with their studies and their careers.

As Manitoba’s largest educator of health care professionals, we are also supporting this sector in their battle against COVID-19 by:

  • Providing 14 students from our Health Information Management program to help with vital record keeping and tracking the spread of COVID-19;
  • Donating 1,700 N95 masks to help combat serious shortages of essential safety gear for front line staff;
  • Offering to re-deploy our 3D printers, manufacturing equipment and labs to support the production of medical devices and supplies; and,
  • Providing unused advertising space to help public health increase its messaging to the community.

I am so inspired by the hard work, dedication, and creativity of our workforce here at RRC. This is a very difficult and stressful time for everyone, and it is incredible to see so many people rise to address the situation before us. We are very fortunate to have such a vibrant College community and as a partner, you are an important part of who we are and how we continue to stay strong at this time.

Your support as donors, alumni and partners have helped us grow into the robust and agile training institution we are today, which has positioned us to meet this challenge head on and continue to help our students become leaders in their chosen fields. Thank you for your support of our students, the College and each other during this difficult time.

We recognize the profound impact that this uncertain time is having on your own family, your work and your business. It is why we will continue to work diligently to support our students in continuing their studies and doing what we canto help the community ‘flatten the curve.’ We want to work together to support you the way you have always supported us.

Please stay safe and feel free to visit for the latest information on how the College is responding to this extraordinary situation.