Bramalea Secondary School (S.S.) is setting an example for others to follow with numerous initiatives under the province’s urban and priority high schools program (UPHS). They are one of six schools in the region who receive extra funding, in the form of $265,000 in 2017, for anti-poverty and social initiatives benefitting in-risk students.
Some of these funds are allocated to hiring full-time staff members, like the two full-time child and youth workers in the school. Julia Colton, Head of Guidance says the urban priority funding is “really there to fund in-risk students, not necessarily at-risk students but students that are in-risk in this moment, in this time.”
Students are identified as being in-risk via attachment surveys conducted in May and October. These identify issues like hunger, financial stress, family dynamics, mental health, and access to computers at home.
“Really, we’re just trying to get all of our in-risk kids, that by the end of the year, they are attached to our school,” says Colton. “That’s really the prime goal of this urban funding.” She also clarifies that schools qualifying as UPHS are just normal high schools located in social risk index communities.
Bramalea S.S. was built in 1963 but only qualified for the program 10 years ago and now work on high need areas like nutrition. They run a sharing pantry for families of students, a few breakfast clubs and a lunch program where 40 lunches are prepared daily for individual students.
In October, their clothing pantry provided emergency food and clothing to a student’s family whose home burned down in a fire. Amazon is planning a fundraiser for their sharing pantry, the YMCA also help fund their breakfast program, while Freshco and Tim Hortons regularly donate items.
“We never have money left over, we stretch every dollar as much as we can to provide programs and support for our students,” says Fraser Kidd, school principal. For the first time Nov. 30th, they are holding a coat drive out of the school cafeteria in response to a need for winter clothing in the community.
They also have a steering committee with other schools in the region who meet monthly, “we have had opportunities to share our data and information with other secondary schools and elementary schools that aren’t necessarily in the UPHS program,” says Kidd.
Other initiatives at Bramalea S.S. include free certificate programs in babysitting, first aid, smart serve and food handling to help students obtain part-time work. Secondary schools enrolled in the UPHS program in Peel Region are Central Peel, Chinguacousy, Lincoln M. Alexander, Peel Alternative, Judith Nyman and Bramalea.
(Pictured above: Grade 10 students Katie Parsons and Paityn Caulfield earn volunteer hours as they prepare chicken stir fry for the bagged lunch program.)