By Elizabeth Courchesne
This week, schools and community organizations across Quebec celebrated Hooked on School Days, promoting academic perseverance, with the idea that even the smallest of gestures can make a big difference in a student’s life. Every year has a theme and this year it is “take a moment for them,” a moment to celebrate students and create some momentum to carry them to the end of the school year.
Young people have not been spared the effects and many challenges brought on by the pandemic. On the educational side, adapting to new teaching methods, social distancing, and a lack of or changes to extracurricular activities have all played an important role in students’ school perseverance, but there is often more. We have seen first-hand that our vulnerable students face more barriers than most, such as food insecurity, poor or no internet access, poor sleep patterns, and less opportunity for family support. Helping children with schoolwork is low on the priority list when many families are dealing with the daily stress of how to pay the rent or deal with job insecurity.
February marks the halfway point of the school year and can also be one of the most challenging months for students. With the winter blues currently heightened by pandemic restrictions, student motivation and engagement are at a low point. Hooked on School week provides us all with the opportunity to speak frankly with our youth about why it is important to stay in school but also to make sure that they know they are not alone. We are, more than ever, committed to helping the students with the support they need for their education but also their mental health. Our experience has shown that our participants thrive when they have individualized support from people who care about their success.
We believe it is also a moment for the community to highlight and acknowledge the Stanstead students who have demonstrated their resilience and their willingness to succeed. Whether it be in-person or online, over 140 local youth have accessed education and career support at Phelps so far this year. We have been blown away by their widely varying sources of motivation, their ability to adapt, and the sacrifices they have had to make this year.
We feel fortunate and proud that they are committed to their education and that they continue to show up during these challenging times.