Jacenda Trindholm, left, and Maia Mineault-Towers, right, flank Marnie Alexander, Community School Coordinator at Harwin Elementary School, while speaking at Community School Legacy Night.

Nicolle Therrien, Community School Coordinator at Duchess Park Secondary School, speaks about the origins and development of Community School programming at Community School Legacy Night.

Jemma Marchant, left, and Kailee Patterson tell guests at Community School Legacy Night about their experiences in Harwin's Community School program.

Gabby Hurst-Dupuis talks about how she benefited from her involvement in Community School programs.

Tristan Moon takes his turn at the microphone during Community School Legacy Night.

Donovan Linton addresses the audience at Community School Legacy Night, held Oct. 1 at Van Bien Training Centre.

Legacy Night shines spotlight on Community School programming

After-school programming makes a positive impact in the lives of students. Some of those students stood up and showed their appreciation during a Community School Legacy Night dinner, held Tuesday evening at Van Bien Training Centre.

The purpose of the gathering, the first for School District No. 57, was to thank community and school district supporters of after-school programming.

“Extra-curricular activities were a huge part of our lives growing up at Harwin,” said Jemma Marchant, at the microphone at the front of the room with friend Kailee Patterson, both of them now students at Duchess Park Secondary. “By the time we had left for high school we had completed a multitude of cross-country races, Kids’ Fun Triathlons, Icemans, adventure camps and even the (Vancouver) Sun Run. It was during those programs that Kailee and I learned valuable life lessons and information regarding healthy lifestyles.

“Throughout these programs we were taught to pick the very best food choices to fuel our bodies, which in turn would lead us to developing healthy lifestyles as young adults,” continued Patterson. “Not only did these programs offer us the ability to lead better lives but also to learn important life skills. Throughout these programs we learned perseverance, communication skills and to support those around you, as well as many others.”

Other activities that have been offered in after-school (Community School) programming include Engage Sport North camps, girls’ roller derby, basketball, rookie rugby, soccer, youth fitness, cross-country skiing and hockey. Students have also participated in glee club, camps at Ness Lake and the ever-popular Aboriginal Education Canadian Tire Little Mudder Challenge. Community assistance comes, among other ways, through sponsorship and the offering of expertise by qualified coaches.

Specific elementary schools in the district have had Community School programming for about 12 years.

“We identified a lot of concerns within the higher-risk schools of Prince George,” Marnie Alexander, Community School Coordinator at Harwin, told the guests in attendance. “We were facing significant behavioural challenges, high transiency rates, gang involvement, high-risk behaviours and a general lack of attachment to staff in our buildings. We saw that very few of our students that we were dealing with were able to participate in extra-curricular activities and any sort of programming outside of the school setting. So the challenge we faced was impacting school culture and the ability to impact larger groups of students.”

Alexander said the Iceman program was the first to target group involvement. Students trained together for the Prince George Iceman – an annual multi-sport event that features cross-country skiing, running, skating and swimming – and then participated in it.

“This program allowed us to connect with students who would typically struggle in unsupported clubs or activities,” Alexander said. “The program was able to focus on positive community involvement, health and wellness and connection to adults. The overall reaction and buy-in to this program encouraged us to start (trips to) Educo (Adventure School near 100 Mile House), Goals and Dreams hockey programs, the Sun Run, kids’ triathlons, art programs, drama clubs and now a full range of programming that’s unique to the individual needs of our schools.”

Selen Alpay, owner of the Prince George Canadian Tire, was among the guests at Community Schools Legacy Night. Alpay – and by extension his store – has long supported hockey programs in School District No. 57 and has been on board for all of the Little Mudder events, four of them so far.

“There are a lot of kids that go without that shouldn’t go without,” said Alpay, who was awarded B.C.’s Medal of Good Citizenship in 2018 in recognition of his generosity, service, acts of selflessness and contributions to community life. “We like to see kids start and then see them six months later and see how they’ve progressed. A great example of that would be hockey. The first year we did the hockey, we saw a lot of young people who could barely skate. They played a game and they had a great time and the smiles on their faces affected me. A year later, we saw the same kids play again and they were skating down the ice like NHLers and were so happy. To measure their progress from one year to the next was incredible.

“Also, their education is impacted by sport,” Alpay added. “We love seeing kids grow through sport and into school and their education.”

This school year, Community School programming has made the jump to the high school level, specifically at Duchess Park and the Centre for Learning Alternatives. At Duchess Park, hockey is starting and girls’ roller derby will be opening up for Grade 8 and 9 students, who will join in with the Grade 6 and 7 players.

“Right now it’s just program development and getting to know what students are wanting,” said Nicolle Therrien, Community School Coordinator at Duchess Park. “It starts with a survey and finding out what the students are interested in and then it’s reaching out to the community to see what relationships and partnerships I can create to get things going for the students at Duchess.”

Like Alpay, Therrien has seen firsthand how students benefit from Community School programming.

“You find that students are more confident in getting involved in other programs in the community after they’ve been involved in a number of ones through school,” she said. “You see students moving on to different opportunities, remembering some of the moments they had where they persevered and moved forward, working hard and challenging themselves to meet goals.”

The idea for Community School Legacy Night originated with Erica McLean, Community School Coordinator with the Aboriginal Education Department. McLean wanted to find a way to show appreciation to community partners who have helped make the programs not only possible but immensely successful.

“We as Community School Coordinators can lead these initiatives on our own – say, for example, we’ll go out and coach soccer or facilitate a strength and conditioning program but it’s not the same as when it’s coming from the people who are really passionate about it, the ones who are experts in their field,” McLean said. “I’ll give an example of our PGYSA soccer coach, Johnathan Botelho. He facilitated almost five days a week I would say. He would rotate to every school with the same level of enthusiasm for soccer and sharing that with the students. Every kid loves him and they remember him. It’s the people like that who really make an impact for our kids. They’re the reason our kids buy in.”

Community School partners

  • Crossfit Northern Ice
  • Canadian Tire Jumpstart
  • Northern Health - Imagine Grants
  • PG Roller Girls
  • 100 Heroes
  • Hub City Volkswagen
  • UNBC Timberwolves
  • ICBC
  • Glee Club teacher at Van Bien
  • SD 57 Trustees
  • Engage Sport North
  • Integris Credit Union
  • Angel's Aerial Fitness
  • Caledonia Nordic Ski Club
  • S.W.I.T.C.H Program
  • Iceman Society
  • Prince George Native Friendship Centre
  • Rookie Rugby
  • Pop Media
  • Ness Like Bible Camp
  • Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northern B.C.
  • City of Prince George
  • SD 57 Program Support Staff (education assistants, youth care workers, teachers and administrators, who volunteer to drive, attend programs for supervision ratios, and lead programs)
  • SD 57 Communications