The Oneness of School and Community

With the exception of the Academic Advisor, the Vancouver School Board (VSB) does not fund non-enrolling teachers in Adult Education, so students must access specialized support within the community. However, the school does have an Outreach Worker, a support staff member charged with helping students connect with services they may need. At this time, the Outreach Worker at Hastings Education Centre has established relationships on behalf of the school with over 100 community services. What follows is an inventory of these resources, an overall evaluation of their strengths and shortcomings, and a discussion about student connection to school and community development.

MA ELM 540, January 2013

Taking Stock of Community Resources: The Oneness of School and Community

The Vancouver School Board (VSB) operates six Adult Learning Centres that offer free high school completion and upgrading to Canadian citizens, permanent residents, and refugees. Although intended for adults, many youth attend VSB Adult Learning Centres because they find the social atmosphere or flexible schedule more suitable. Hastings Education Centre (Hastings) is one of the smaller of these six schools and is located in the inner city. Hastings is designed as a neighbourhood school but does not have a designated catchment. As such, an estimated 15% of Hastings students hail from neighbouring cities. With the exception of the Academic Advisor, the Vancouver School Board (VSB) does not fund non-enrolling teachers in Adult Education, so students must access specialized support within the community. However, the school does have an Outreach Worker, a support staff member charged with helping students connect with services they may need. At this time, the Outreach Worker has established relationships on behalf of the school with over 100 community services. What follows is an inventory of these resources, an overall evaluation of their strengths and shortcomings, and a discussion about student connection to school and community development.

Community Resources Accessed by Hastings Education Centre

Addiction Resources

  • Hey-Way’-Noqu’ Healing Centre
  • Watari Youth Day Treatment Program
  • ODYSSEY II, Substance Abuse Services for Youth and Families

Cultural Resources

  • Burnaby Multicultural Society
  • Chinese Cultural Centre
  • Multicultural Family Support
  • Vancouver Aboriginal Friendship Centre Society

Education and Training Resources

  • Western ESL Services
  • VCC, ELSA Department
  • Native Youth Learning Centre
  • Native Education Centre
  • Tradeworks Training Society
  • UBC Learning Exchange
  • UBC Life and Career Centre
  • Tung Lin Kok Yuen Canada Society
  • Vancouver Formosa Academy
  • Aboriginal Community Career and Employment Services Society
  • MOSAIC English Language Centre
  • MOSAIC Employment Services

Employment and Income Assistance Resources

  • PACT (Coast Mental Heath) Employment Services
  • New Start Bridging Employment Program for Women
  • China Creek Employment and Income Assistance Office
  • Fairview Employment and Income Assistance Office
  • Killarney Employment and Income Assistance Office
  • Dockside Employment and Income Assistance Office
  • Grandview Employment and Income Assistance Office
  • Kiwassa Employment and Income Assistance Office
  • Mountainview Employment and Income Assistance Office
  • Sunrise Employment and Income Assistance Office
  • Strathcona Disability Employment and Income Assistance Office
  • West End Employment and Income Assistance Office
  • BladeRunners
  • Drive Youth Employment Services
  • First Nations Employment and Enterprise Centre

Family Resources

  • Family Services of Greater Vancouver
  • Family Services of Greater Vancouver, East Vancouver
  • Family Services of the North Shore
  • Jewish Family Service Agency
  • Watari Research Association
  • Vancouver Aboriginal Child and Family Services Society
  • PLEA Family Services
  • East Side Family Place
  • Ministry of Children and Family Development
  • Mount Pleasant Family Centre
  • YWCA Crabtree Corner
  • Westcoast Childcare Resource Centre

Health Services

  • Raven Song Community Health Centre

Housing Resources

  • Raincity Housing ACT Team
  • Ray-Cam Co-op Centre

Immigrant Resources

  • Immigrant Settlement Services
  • Immigrant Services Society
  • Inland Refugee Society of BC
  • Kinbrace House
  • Kingcrest International Neighbours
  • North Shore Multicultural Society
  • Pacific Immigrant Resources Society
  • PICS Settlement Information & Support Services
  • SUCCESS
  • Vancouver Multicultural Society
  • Multicultural Family Centre
  • Multicultural Helping House Society
  • MOSAIC

Mental Health Resources

  • The Kettle Friendship Society
  • Canadian Mental Health Association
  • Vancouver Association for Survivors of Torture
  • West Coast Christian Fellowship

Municipal Resources

  • Community Centres

ž  Britannia Community Centre

ž  Champlain Heights Community Centre

ž  Hastings Community Centre

ž  Hillcrest Community Centre

ž  Kerrisdale Community Centre

ž  Marpole-Oakridge Services

ž  Mount Pleasant Community Centre

ž  Renfrew Park Community Centre

ž  Strathcona Community Centre

ž  Sunset Community Centre

ž  Thunderbird Community Centre

ž  Trout Lake Community Centre

ž  YMCA Community Services

  • Community Policing Centres

ž  Grandview-Woodland

ž  Hastings-Sunrise

  • Libraries

ž  Britannia Library

ž  Hastings Library

ž  Mount Pleasant Library

ž  Strathcona Library

  • Neighbourhood Houses

ž  Cedar Cottage Neighbourhood House

ž  Collingwood Neighbourhood House

ž  Downtown East Side Neighbourhood House

ž  Frog Hollow Neighbourhood House

ž  Gordon Neighbourhood House

ž  Kiwassa Neighbourhood House

ž  Little Mountain Neighbourhood House

ž  Mount Pleasant Neighbourhood House

ž  North Shore Neighbourhood House

ž  South Vancouver Neighbourhood House

  • Politicians

ž  MLA, Jenny Kwan

ž  MLA, Shane Simpson

ž  MP, Libby Davies

Women’s Services

  • Battered Women’s Support Services
  • Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre
  • Elizabeth Fry Society
  • Helping Spirit Lodge Society
  • SHE WAY
  • Vancouver Status of Women

Youth Resources

  • Aunt Leah’s Independent Life Skills Society
  • Broadway Youth Services Centre
  • Gordon House Youth Search
  • South Vancouver Youth Centre
  • Urban Native Youth Association

Other

  • The 411 Seniors Club
  • The Grandview Cavalry Baptist Church
  • The John Howard Society
  • Union Gospel Mission

Evaluation of Available Community Resources

Adult Education students are a diverse group. They represent all ages, cultures, socio-economic realities, educational experience, and learning abilities. Where they are similar is in their desire to acquire skills leading to high school graduation, usually as quickly as possible. Students are also generally united in feelings of being overwhelmed by their educational circumstance, but it should be noted that these feelings are based in a diversity of root causes. This means the students all want the same thing but in different ways. Adult schools must be flexible enough to offer individualized support to their students, and this influences their connections with the community.

Offering a relevant service is key to creating meaningful experience in Adult Education. Many adult students have forged their own connections with their communities, so it is often redundant for a community organization to connect directly with the adult schools. Furthermore, students are commonly challenged with limits on their time. As adults, they must care for themselves, their families, and their jobs while they are studying. Offering students opportunities to be partners in community development can be burdensome to people with limited time and resources. Nevertheless, many adult students can achieve significant personal and academic success from positive connections with the community. Adult schools respond to this conundrum by facilitating these connections on an individual basis. Key to this facilitation is the Outreach Worker, who connects students with services in the community.

The Outreach worker acts as a liaison between students and resources. This function is very important because many of the services devote little funding to public awareness campaigning, so most are unaware of what is available. By being knowledgeable about how outside organizations work, the Outreach Worker can effectively advocate for students.

The extensive list of community services connected to Hastings would make it appear that students are well served. In many ways, this is true, but there exists a chronic problem with continuity. Many of these services have different eligibility requirements. For example, our students are not permitted to collect employment insurance while they attend our school. Another problem is long wait lists. Many important health services are so overburdened that they can only respond to emergency situations, so our students in need can find that they are not appropriately needy to access some services. Furthermore, each community service has its own social tenor. Our school is small and prides itself on personalized, supportive connections between staff and students. Many of our students are intimidated by larger, impersonal organizations and return to our school without having successfully accessed the required community service. In each case, the school facilitates student connections with community but has negligible influence over the community supports available.

School Planning in Adult Education

At first glance it may seem ironic that a school that prides itself on flexible and relevant programming pays little attention to its School Improvement Plan (SIP). Although the SIP is revised by the principal and a teacher every year and requires a student to sign off, it is not actively connected to professional development. VSB Adult Education responds to students’ individual needs with minimal resources. This means that the school’s focus on being flexible can be inhibited by concrete plans. It would not be false to say that Adult Education has achieved its measure of success by avoiding binding agreements. The down side is that student involvement in school planning is rendered irrelevant.

Conclusion

The social and structural determinants that make life difficult for people without high school leaving skills are not easily altered. Even with an ideal symbiotic relationship between the school and its community, it would be simplistic to think that these challenges belong only to those without a diploma. Indeed, the abundance of the entire community is affected by the hardship of some. In the end, the most effective resource to involve students in school and community development is the high school courses themselves. Citizens need basic skills to thrive. Adult Education offers these skills and facilitates connections with relevant special services available in the community. By increasing their proficiency and connecting with the community, students improve their lives. In turn, students with lives improved by their education go back into the community with an elevated potential for positive input. It is these contributions that strengthen the community and bolster the school’s community presence. By reducing the impact of structural and social determinants, education itself becomes a community resource for the school.

 

 

 

 

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