A new program being offered by Medicine Hat YMCA, in partnership with the city’s public school division, has received a total of $225,000 in funding for its next three years of operation.
The Alternative Suspension program was launched in Medicine Hat in March, but has existed for more than 25 years through YMCAs across Canada.
The program provides academic, emotional and behavioural support for students aged 12-17 who have been suspended from school, with the goal of successful re-introduction to school upon the end of their suspension.
“Students can expect additional support and psycho-education related to the various issues which might have contributed to their suspension,” Sharon Hayward, chief executive officer with Medicine Hat’s YMCA, told the News. “For example, they could learn about anger management, mental health issues, time management, conflict resolution and/or substance use. There’s different types of group workshops we provide to the youth while they’re in the program, in addition to one-on-one support they receive from a youth worker.”
Admission into the program is done through referral by school administrators. As the local program is in its pilot stage, only MHPSD is a partner.
Since its introduction in Medicine Hat, 19 students have taken part in the program. While the local YMCA does not yet have success rate measurements for those students, provincially, stats show the program has a positive affect on those involved.
In Alberta, 90 per cent of program graduates returned to school without further suspensions, and 76 per cent saw a decrease in the number of disciplinary measures.
“There’s only a few students in the program at any given time,” said Hayward. “And those numbers are intentionally kept low, so it’s an individualized experience.”
The $225,000 funding, provided by Scotiabank’s ScotiaRISE initiative, will be provided to YMCA in $75,000 annually from now until 2025.
KENDALL KING, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Medicine Hat News