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Wednesday, 24 May 2017 11:38

The community service program at CAMPS helps students to give back

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Students at the Chinook Alternative Middle Plus School (CAMPS) in Swift Current have an opportunity to give back to the community and to make a difference through the school’s community service program.

Every year, the school commits to providing 100 hours of community service.
The students will carry out a variety of tasks in the community. They will shovel snow, rake leaves, do the Christmas decorations at the Salvation Army, help with tree planting during the annual Stark & Marsh Go Green Friday, assist Anthea Loran of the Friends of the Walkway to prepare the rose garden in Kiwanis Park for the summer, and deliver hot meals to Meals on Wheels clients.
According to CAMPS Principal Benita Struik, the program was started a few years ago after staff were thinking about how to increase the connection of students to the community.
“We were trying to figure out how to get them better connected, as well it will lead into job connections in the future and help with their resumé,” she said.
Lindsay Painchaud, the school counsellor and youth worker, suggested the idea of community service hours and that the school should have a goal of 100 hours of community service per school year. The program started with random acts of kindness towards the elderly who could not shovel snow or rake leaves. Thereafter the school became involved with Meals on Wheels, which is one of the most popular volunteer activities among students.
“They have build relationships with some of the elderly in the community and I think it’s a good relationship for the elderly to have with some of our youth,” Struik said.
Students are now doing a variety of volunteer activities in the community during each school year. People will call the school when they need help or to ask if students are interested to assist with a certain activity.
“The Lyric (Theatre) phones us when they need help decorating for their functions on the weekend,” she said. “So the students would go set up the tables, set up the place mats and all that kind of stuff.”
These volunteer activities are helping students to have positive interactions with individuals and organizations in the community.
“The biggest benefit is them to have a positive relationship with their community and with the business members within the community,” she said. “I think that if they start putting some deposits in and working in the community that they’re going to care about it more, and in the end they come back here always feeling good. They feel like they did something and they didn’t have to do it for money. They didn’t do it for anything other than just the self-worth of getting out there and helping in the community.”
Grade 9 student Destiny Fehr worked the most volunteer hours during this school year and she received a tablet computer with a detachable keyboard as a reward during a presentation at the school May 5.
“I enjoyed doing the Meals on Wheels, seeing the people get happy when you bring them their meals,” she told the Prairie Post.
As a result of their efforts to make a difference in the community, the CAMPS students are invited to the annual WE Day Saskatchewan event.
“You can only get a ticket if you do volunteer hours,” she said. “I did like 22 hours.”
This year’s event took place in Saskatoon March 15. It brings together thousands of students from across the province to hear inspiring messages from high-profile speakers and to enjoy entertainment by award-winning performers.
“That was awesome, just seeing a bunch of people performing,” she said. “They had pretty cool performances.”
Fehr has completed her current grade level requirements and she will transition to Maverick School before the end of this school year. She is looking forward to Grade 10, but she has enjoyed her time at CAMPS.
“It’s a lot easier having a school where there’s a lot less people and the school time starts a little later, so you actually get a good amount of sleep and you’re actually well rested to come to school,” she said. “I like the people here, they’re helpful.”
CAMPS provided her with a good study environment where she was able to determine her own pace of learning.
“You can either work by yourself at your own station or you can work at the couches,” she said. “You can work at your own pace. So you can either work faster or slower.”
CAMPS provides an alternative for middle year students struggling in the regular school system. The school’s mission is to be a student-centred, therapeutic learning environment that addresses the holistic needs of every child and family. Enrolment will therefore only happen after a referral process that will include meetings with a student and parents.
“When we take on a student here, we take on a whole family,” Struik said. “If the student is accepted, they do a tour, we talk with the parents, ... and then we start working with the parents and the student in figuring out what the barriers were for that student being successful in school. We work on all those things and if things go well, we transition them back into the school system — that’s the goal.”
There are currently eight students at the school, but the school can accommodate up to 12 students. Student numbers will fluctuate during a school year, depending on how long a student will spend there.
“We have some students that will just need us for a short period of time, just to get things back on track,” she said. “So they might be with us for three to four months, and then we have some students that could be with us for one to two years. This year, I think we’ve had 16 go through our program so far.”
Learning takes place through individual interaction between students and staff, because students are at different places in their education when they arrive at the school.
“We will do some assessments to find out if they are getting programmed correctly,” she said. “Sometimes kids are getting over programmed, then they are not understanding what is going on, and some of them are getting under programmed, where they need to be challenged.”
The goal is to build the confidence of students who are behind in their educational program and then to start focusing on those skills that will help them to catch up to their grade and to transition back to a regular school.
“Probably the most important part is building a relationship with them and within that relationship they want to work for you,” she said about the teaching method at the school. “They want to do well. Kids don’t go to school, getting up in the morning saying, ‘I’m going to school and fail today.’ Nobody wants to. There is a reason they are failing. So we work to figure out what that is, to get over that.”
The school is currently located in a building in downtown Swift Current, but staff is already preparing for a move to Fairview School at the end of June. Students will start the school year in September at the new location.
The change is a result of the budgetary challenges facing the Chinook School Division.
CAMPS’ small enrollment has made it possible to accommodate them at Fairview School, where two classrooms are undergoing minor renovations. CAMPS will still continue to function as a separate entity at the new location.
“We have an entrance that is a little bit more private,” she said. “We share it with some other students, but we have an area that I think will be not intrusive on the other kids or the other building or ours, because a lot of our kids are very nervous, because they struggle in the regular school. They’re nervous about going back into the regular school. So we’re very protective of that.”
Struik believes the move to the new location will have some advantages for the CAMPS students, but at the same time, they will continue to have the benefits of individualized education.
“I think part of the benefits are maybe opportunities for kids to be a part of classes a little easier because you’re in a building already, to build relationships with different teachers,” she said. “It will be interesting. We’re looking forward to the change.”
The 8th annual CAMPS fundraising golf tournament, which will follow a Texas scramble format, takes place at the Saskatchewan Landing golf course, June 3.
“We have traditionally between 120 and 144 golfers that come out in support,” she said. “So, it’s huge. It’s a lot of fun.”
The tournament helps to raise awareness about at-risk children in the community and the funds from the event are used for school field trips and other student-related expenses.
“A lot of the students here don’t get opportunities to camp, even go to the Moose Jaw Tunnels, to Regina Science Centre, all those kinds of things,” she said. “Those funds support that, as well as we’ve had times throughout the year where students have had nowhere to couch, or things like that. So those funds we will use with the MCC or just to get things. We’ve had to get a student a bed once. One of our students was legally blind, but the family could not afford glasses, so we got glasses.”
The tournament will have a 10 a.m. shotgun start.
There will be putting competition and chipping contest during the event.
The prize presentation and steak supper will take place afterwards.
The cost is $90 per person for non-members, which include green fees, cart, prizes, and meal.
The cost for Saskatchewan Landing Golf Course members is $50. Registration must take place by May 27.
For more information or to register, phone CAMPS at 306-778-9288 or contact officials at Saskatchewan Landing at 1-866-691-4653.

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Matthew Liebenberg