WRDSB’s Choices for Youth Program has been designed using a restorative practices-based approach to meet the needs of students who have been fully-expelled from this school Board and every other school in the Province of Ontario. It is a voluntary program. Students and their families must enter into a contract to participate. The program is delivered through a number of experiential approaches, including Service Learning, Adventure-based and Group Development with a strong focus on socioemotional learning strategies.
The program emphasizes capacities, concentrating on each student’s positive traits and working to enhance those while building skills to correct behaviours that get in the way of success. The program uses an holistic approach which is called the “Potential is Everything” model.
At present, there is a site in Waterloo, and in Cambridge. Each class is capped at ten students, staffed with a teacher and Child Youth Worker. As well, the program includes a Vice Principal, an intake worker and other support staff. The Choices team works in partnership with many local agencies and community organizations to better support student success.
This program, with both academic and non-academic components, is available for all grade levels and the length of stay is dependent upon the student’s ability to complete the program outcomes. Following completion of the program, the student will re-enter mainstream school, the world of work or community programs. Choices staff will continue to support former-students as they transition back to mainstream school.
In my second year of secondary school I was on a downward spiral in life, from drug use, petty crime, threats and outlandish behavior that was very unbecoming.
It wasn’t long until I found myself arrested, kicked out of school, with my back against the wall with only one option, the Choices for Youth Program. From my very first day the staff at the CFY program made it very clear that they were invested not only in having us succeed through the program, and to graduate or advance through our education, but to also assist us to grow into mature young adults that made decisions to better ourselves in any environment/situation.
Through the one on one counseling and teaching I was able to learn necessary life skills that are not taught in a traditional classroom. These skills included things like fight or flight, owning up to your behavior, and how to also become a leader. I’m sure I don’t have to list the curriculum that you must be aware of.
Simply put, since I completed the program and was re-enrolled into Secondary school I graduated with a most improved student award, and was very close to making honors. It is without a doubt that without this program I would not be where I am today, and I have the staff at the Choices for Youth Program, especially Mrs. Kristin Willis and also the school board for allowing me a chance to redeem myself for the foolish mistakes I made in my youth.
I still to this very day use the things I was taught in that program in my profession as often as I can. I currently work for a great company and am responsible for more than a dozen employees. My education has continued after Secondary school and I have advanced dramatically through the ranks and love my job and career path.