A Vancouver organization that prides itself on giving youth a boost is getting one itself.
The Take A Hike Youth At Risk Foundation has been working with the Vancouver School Board for the past 12 years to provide an alternative education program at John Oliver Secondary School.
Forty students deemed at risk are enrolled in the program each year, giving them an academic overhaul while connecting them with counseling and community programs under the guise of adventure-based learning.
“We can often be a last resource school placement for them,” said the foundation’s president Sonja Jensen. “The students are leaving the program with confidence they didn’t have before. They’re breaking out of negative peer groups which maybe got them in Take A Hike to begin with, some are working through addiction issues or don’t have the family support we’re used to. We now have students that are involved in post secondary and trade programs and they’re building a life they didn’t see possible before.”
As part of their studies, students participate in weekly outdoor activities and embark on several 10-day adventure trips with the program’s teachers and counselors.
It’s just what Grade 11 student Rueben Buerge needed to get his academic life back on track.
“I was failing most of my classes and I just wasn’t motivated. I started attending the Take A Hike program and everything has changed,” he said. “I’m actually on the honour roll now which I couldn’t ever have believed a couple years ago. My whole mindset has changed.”
The foundation’s work has caught the eye of LIFT Philanthropy Partners, an offshoot of the Olympics’ 2010 Legacies Now, which has decided to invest in a three-year venture project to bring Take a Hike into other British Columbian and Canadian school districts.
“They have a great track record. Looking at them, we felt it was the right time for them to expand across B.C. and into other parts of Canada,” said LIFT CEO Bruce Dewar.
Take A Hike is currently in discussions with eight B.C. communities to establish local chapters and Jensen says other Canadian cities have also shown an interest.