Amid fiddles and accordions practising in the classrooms next to her office, a local educator was hard at work, fine-tuning the next phase for a youth program for grades 7-12 developed at Roberts Creek Community School.
Hailing the success of the Mind the Gap program, Member of Parliament for West Vancouver–Sunshine Coast–Sea to Sky Country, John Weston came to congratulate, Mind the Gap program director, Stacia Leech and to talk with her about the Health Canadasupported initiative.
Weston began by clarifying what the “Gaps” in the program name, Mind the Gap (MTG) are referring to: moving between elementary and high school, and then the gap between high school and postsecondary training, along with other common hazards for youth.
“You have seen (young people) at risk because of the transition period and there’s concerns about temptation to substance abuse or other areas of instability, so you’ve put together this very interesting program,” Weston enquired, “what inspired you to do this?”
Leech explained that the MTG program is in its third phase of its mandate in working with teens, which started focusing on teen behaviour and trying to change behaviour.
“At this iteration of the program we are also working with the families of the adolescents and the teachers,” Leech explained, “working with the school district and re-writing policy … around social and emotional learning programs.”
Social and emotional learning programs are the the root of prevention, Leech affirmed. They are also cornerstones to building what she calls “capacity and resiliency” in helping youth cope with, and resist patterns of destructive behaviour and substance abuse.
Mind the Gap is important, its project manager notes, because it’s all based around mindfulness.
“The research and the evidence says that if we pay attention to the social and emotional learning that comes with mindfulness, that’s how you build capacity,” for coping, she added.
Weston said there were two things that make an impression on him about Mind the Gap. One is the emphasis on health promotion as opposed to sub- Harbour Air 1jul14 3×7.25 July 3 ,2014 stance abuse, he noted,
“The other is that you emphasize collaboration, so it’s between students and parents and school board, and collaboration between different levels of government,” the Coast’s MP said.
Leech concurred that, “When you have a collaborative approach, and we look at what the province is doing around mental health and addictions, we see how we fit, and can work with them.”
She notes the ministry of education is changing to three core competencies which are: critical thinking, communication and social and emotional awareness. “So we’re fitting in with what’s already there,” Leech noted.
She said the program will not just be for students deemed to be “at risk” or “in risk,” but will be applied to all Grade seven to 12 students at the school starting this fall.
The project activities will run until June 2016, and serve 300 SD 46 students at Roberts Creek Community School. Some of the project activities include stress reduction training for teachers and families, and a teen residential retreat.
“Young people go in and out of at-risk situations their whole lives,” Leech noted, where there are disruptions such as moving, divorce or death in the family, all young people need skills to cope.
Weston said he was proud to offer support for health issues at the federal level, citing his work with local groups, students and police in getting a bill passed around regulating crystal methamphetamine.
“And I work very closely with the minister who funded this (MTG) initiative, Rona Ambrose, and on national health and fitness programs,” the MP said.
Leech agreed fitness for students is important for helping equip them with good habits and coping skills, which through sports and outdoors training the theme can be widely applied.
“We use sports as an example, where if you’re going into a big game … what do you need to do? You need to get centred and you need to breath,” Leech explained, “and those are the same things you need to do when you’re going into an at-risk situation.”
The MTG program will also be available to firstyear students at Capilano University in Sechelt for 2015. The entire three-year program is being sponsored by Health Canada with a grant of $323,000. Info: firstname.lastname@example.org or 604-885-3481.