By Elizabeth Courchesne
Over the past 14 months, everything we expect from school has changed. The Phelps Helps team has worked hard to adapt to the needs of the students by offering online, in-person, and hybrid models of support throughout the past school year.
As we now work our way out of the pandemic, we must continue to support Stanstead area students, and Second Chance is the perfect opportunity for just that.
By Nick White
My name is Nick White, some of you may already know me through Facebook or other means, and I am the Youth Outreach and Engagement Coordinator at Phelps Helps. (Say that 5 times fast!). I am running a new project that is part of the Compass program at Phelps and is funded by Emploi Quebec. This project seeks to help Stanstead-area individuals between the ages of 15-30 return to school or find employment. One of the most important parts of this project are the completion incentives participants receive upon completing the second and third phases. These cash incentives are designed to help participants with costs they incur while pursuing their goals.
As many of you are aware, Stanstead faces several complex problems that hamper the growth of our community. We face two major issues: 1) Only 49% of high school students from Stanstead end up graduating, and 2) Our unemployment rate hovers around 30%. Fortunately, these two issues are exactly what this project is designed to address.
It has been a strange year. For many of us, it feels like March of 2020 was just a few months ago, yet here we are coming up on a year of COVID reaching us in Canada. Luckily, we can finally see some light at the end of the tunnel. Vaccines are becoming more available daily as our case numbers continue to drop. Our collective hardship seems to be nearing its end.
The phrase “every cloud has a silver lining” comes to mind as we adjust to our new reality, and this lining is all the brighter for those who are looking to get their lives back on track. It has never been easier to go back to school; asynchronous learning and virtual classrooms have become the norm, and schools are offering more flexible learning options than ever before. Distance learning is a fantastic option for anyone who works or supports their family but is looking to complete their high school diploma.
Universities and colleges are starving for students, the potential losses in 2020 for Canadian post-secondary schools amount to hundreds of millions, if not billions, of dollars. With less reliance on in-person instruction, post-secondary institutions are no longer constrained by the number of bodies that will fit in a physical space, so they can accept more online students. So, if you have been out of high school for a year or two and thinking about applying to CEGEP or university, now is a great time to do so. Check out our previous blog post for more information about important dates and how to start your journey.
Similarly, there are many new employment opportunities on the horizon as businesses begin to reopen. Job prospects are improving with each passing week, and many businesses are looking to hire individuals they lost due to COVID restrictions. I am here to work one-on-one with participants to guide them through the entire process.
Best of all, all of this assistance is completely free, so if you know of anyone who wants to work toward the future they dream of, feel free to reach out to me by email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or track me down on Facebook (Nick White), and I will be delighted to help you.
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.