Youth gang prevention program focuses on movement as medicine

·2 min read

With an $8,000 grant from the B.C. government, Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools is embarking on a new program to keep youth out of gangs.

Part of the province’s $486,000 pot available for the 2021 school district mentorship grant program, a group of students at NLPS’s Learning Alternatives school who are at the highest risk of being recruited by a gang or who are currently gang-affiliated will participate in a collaboration with Red Girl Rising, an organization founded by Ivy Richardson focused on community and wellness through movement, including boxing.

“Youth gangs and gang recruitment are hurting the life chances of some of our Learning Alternatives students, so that is why we have created this new program,” Brett Hancock, district principal of Learning Alternatives. “Over the past four years, our school has seen a spike in enrolment, but also a spike in youth gang and criminal behaviour.”

Learning Alternatives is based at John Barsby and Woodlands secondaries and offers a handful of programs for students that include outdoor education, trades training and more flexible scheduling.

The grant-funded program will involve students working with local elders and knowledge keepers and will follow the ethos of “movement as medicine” and “treat every day like a ceremony.” The aim is for each youth participant to focus on achieving their personal goals rather than pushing to be superior to others.

“Through movement, ceremony and boxing, we hope to help improve the life chances of our students most at risk,” Hancock said. “We want students to feel like they belong to something positive and partnering with Ivy, I know we will accomplish that.”

Developed by the ministries of Education and Public Safety and Solicitor General, the school district mentorship grant program is part of Erase (expect respect & a safe education), the province’s school-based gang and gun prevention program.

Rachelle Stein-Wotten, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Gabriola Sounder

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