A new program at Twin Lakes Secondary School looks to encourage student entrepreneurship, experiential learning and involvement in community initiatives.
Partner in Education, Adventure and Community is a two-year program for students going into grades 9 and 10, providing them with engagement opportunities in and out of the classroom.
“The plan is to take motivated students and provide them with more opportunities, experiential entrepreneurship and also enriched academic opportunities,” said Irfan Toor, principal at the Orillia school. “In the school, they’ll be doing things related to the courses. In their courses, there will be enhanced opportunities for experiential learning through field trips or having experts coming in or community initiatives.”
The program presents students with five main learning components: compulsory courses, community initiatives, mentorship, experiential and a year-end trip.
With 30 spots open, candidates are being invited to put in an application making a submission showcasing various skills that would make them a valuable addition to the course.
“They have to bring in a submission, telling us how they’re good citizens, how they collaborate,” said Toor. “They can do it in any form. It can be anything from an essay to scrapbook or video. So, we’re leaving it up to them to impress us.”
Both he and guidance counsellor Kerrie Pellarin are hoping for a variety of students to apply to the program, for which an information session is being held at the school on Jan. 25 at 7 p.m.
“I think we’re going to see a wide range of students apply for this,” said Toor. “Those who are already engaged in some activity or sport outside or in school. And then we’re going to see the quiet student who hasn’t found what they want to do, and it’s going to allow them to become leaders.”
The idea for the new program stemmed from a similar one being offered at Prince Edward Collegiate Institute in Picton, said Pellarin.
“Research indicates the more students are engaged in their school community, the higher their academic results,” she said.
A group of Twin Lakes teachers visited the school and met with teachers and graduating students in Picton, Pellarin said. Students said they had developed confidence, learned collaboration skills, commitment to their own schooling and problem-solving skills, among others, she added.
“One of the biggest things that came out was how the students talked about their increase in the involvement with community outside of school,” said Toor. “And that was the thing that resonated with me. I think everybody needs to enhance that. I see a lot of kids (who), when they get their 40 hours (of volunteering, which is required for graduation), they stop. The students we met, they really had a sense of caring for the community they lived in, and that was one of the principles we are building on.”
The structure of the program as applied at the Picton school has been tweaked to suit Twin Lakes, he said, but it remains fluid and gives power to the students to choose how they want certain parts of program to play out.
“Based on the group we will have, we want to produce something that is customized for their skills and needs,” said Toor. “The more they get to have a voice in it, the more engaged they’re going to be.”
For instance, he said, an enhancement to the English course could be a local author coming in as a guest speaker, or the students going to meet a professor at Lakehead University, or an aboriginal leader coming in to speak.
“Or they could write a children’s story and go present it to other students in elementary schools,” added Pellarin. “We don’t have any predetermined initiatives. It’s going to be based on the group.”
Similarly, for the community initiatives part of the program, students will be given a chance to do their own research to determine how they would like to contribute to society.
The enriched course comes with a slight cost to the parents, cautioned Toor.
“Some activities might require an extra cost, like if we’re taking them to a field trip; we can cover the bus, but if it’s something like a high-ropes course or an overnight trip, there may be some costs.”
Regardless of that cost, said Pellarin, this one-of-a-kind program in Simcoe County will generate excitement among students.
“I’m thinking we’re going to get kids who are just really excited about life and learning and about meeting new kids from different schools and who are just curious what it’s all about,” she said. “Again, we don’t have any ambassadors for them to talk to, so they’re going to be the pioneers of the program.”
Forms are available through the school and on its website at twi.scdsb.on.ca. The application deadline is April 5.
For more information, email Toor at firstname.lastname@example.org or Pellarin at email@example.com.