A program worth saving

Brodie Thomas
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Many people tend to look down their noses at “projects.” You know, those “make work” projects: JCPS, Tags.

Many people have gone on the radio and online and mocked the government for giving another handout to help people bridge the gap to their next EI claim.

But of all the Job Creation Partnership projects this paper has covered, the stories coming from Community in Schools programs were certainly the most interesting.

There was the square dancing initiative we saw last year at Belanger Memorial School in the Codroy Valley. The CIS coordinator there had helped get local musicians and dancers into the classroom to pass on traditional songs and dances that had been handed down for generations in the Codroy Valley.

And then last year at LeGallais Memorial and Grandy’s River Collegiate, the CIS workers helped lead an after school program for girls known as the Girl’s Circle. The activities were designed to be fun and educational while promoting the idea of healthy body image.

It’s impossible to begin to list the many projects, initiatives and work completed by the dozens of CIS workers who have worked at our schools over the years. They filled the gaps that usually fall solely to volunteers.

The true measure of the program’s success is seeing how many former CIS workers now have full time employment around the southwest coast. These women (and they’re almost exclusively women) are working in retail, in management, in sales, and in administration. They’re now town clerks and office administrators and salespeople. They didn’t just get their hours. They got jobs.

They were hired because they came through ten months of challenging, sometimes stressful work, where every day was different and brought new challenges. It may not have prepared them to be pipefitters in Alberta or heavy equipment operators down at Long Harbor, but it did give them the skills needed to get into the small but competitive job market here on the southwest coast. We at The Gulf News know, because we hired a former CIS worker too.

Perhaps most importantly, they helped children while they themselves were learning. And that’s the other measure of success. Ask any child to name the CIS worker from the past year or two. Watch what happens when they meet up with them at the mall. You’ll see children interacting with adults. Respectfully! Imagine that!

Yes, there’s only so much money to go around. But the CIS program had been a mainstay for 15 years. To suddenly suggest it’s not filling the JCP mandate is absurd. If the Communities in Schools program is not worthy of Job Creation Partnership money, it is worthy of our tax dollars.

Organizations: Belanger Memorial School, The Gulf News

Geographic location: Codroy Valley, Alberta

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  • JoAnn O'Brien
    September 13, 2012 - 12:44

    Excellent article regarding " A Program worth Saving". You capture the loss felt by many with the termination of CIS funding this year. CIS staff and the coordintor have been highly valued in our school and throughout this area. The costs of cuts are very significant to our student population. In particular, massive projects, like our Job Shadowing Program for our Career Development students, Our Grade 12 post secondary visits and our Grade 11 Skills Day program, were all coodinated and supported by CIS. Without these individuals, significant programs will not be going ahead as planned. The bottom line is that the students, who we are trying to prepare for post secondary education and career planning, are the big losers. And these programs are just the tip of the iceberg. My head is still spinning at the news that these staff positions did not return in September! Thank you for your article. Sincerely, JoAnn O'Brien