School District 23’s Central School meets the needs of challenged students on a daily basis. For a variety of reasons certain students struggle to graduate. Some have mental health issues, drug issues, probation issues with the law. Some come from broken homes, and indeed some, are on the street. Central School staff in conjunction with Okanagan College Trades staff have put together a program that takes place at Okanagan College. Central School students attend the Okanagan College facility even though they have not graduated from Central School.
School officials mention that these students are clearly the most ‘at risk’ students in the school system. Some positive intervention and community support is needed. The Gateway Program offers these students a ten week course that exposes them to a sampling of the various trades offered at Okanagan College- everything from carpentry to electrical work to the culinary arts.
The students complete projects in these areas while working with older students and adults in a positive work experience environment. Their attitude toward their future is transformational as they come to realize that they can be successful at something; they begin to envision a more positive future for themselves if they only change their attitudes, their destructive behaviours and their work ethic. The results are very positive.
The School District provides the funding for the course fees; however, many financial roadblocks remain such as the cost of specific course fees, equipment requirements and books.
The Gary Bennett Family Fund provides scholarships to the most financially challenged and deserving of these students to help cover these costs. Each school year, the Fund offers several $500 scholarships to worthy students who apply for financial assistance. Students should see Gateway teaching staff at Central School to get an application.
The Gateway program is a partnership between Central Programs and Services – SD23 and Okanagan College. For students in general, the pursuit of graduation and the transition to post-secondary education can often be difficult. For at-risk students who deal with a myriad of obstacles including learning difficulties, substance issues, poverty, broken homes and mental health concerns, this transition can seem insurmountable. The Gateway Program strives to provide at-risk students with the necessary supports to successfully transition to college and ultimately sustainable careers in the trade sector.
Financial support for this program is a terrific investment in the future of our community.