Click here to access Stuart Shanker's guest article: Expanding our Understanding of the Meaning of "Safe."

FOCUS ON: How Do We Know We Are Making a Difference for Children?

Guest Contribution by: Rebecca Gokiert and Karen Edwards, Community-University Partnership (CUP) at the University of Alberta.

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Every program manager has wondered “Are we really making a difference?” and “How do we prove it?” In the past decade, the Community-University Partnership for the Study of Children, Youth and Families (CUP), University of Alberta has worked collaboratively with managers of early childhood development (ECD) programs to develop evaluation plans to help them respond to these questions.

However, the reality is that as funding sources become more competitive, the demand for evaluation and program accountability grows and yet ECD programs struggle to find adequate resources and capacity to conduct evaluations. Program staff are working at maximum capacity, under time pressures, and may not understand why specific data is being collected. Funders may request that programs use specific evaluation methods that do not seem to match with the intended outcomes.

Ultimately, there is a disconnect in how we think, define and use evaluation depending on our role, sector and organization. This can lead to misunderstandings about the difference we are making.

What are some things we do know?

We know that strong well-rounded ECD programming provides healthy experiences and creates a foundation for a lifetime of healthy outcomes. We know that policies and programs that promote development during the first five years of life help reduce expensive interventions in later years. We know that funders who support initiatives that improve ECD outcomes are increasingly requiring evidence of program and service effectiveness. We know that community agencies struggle to support the capacity, knowledge and skills to collect the evidence needed to demonstrate their impacts and justify continued support. We know we need to talk more about this process. We know we need to talk more about evaluation.

What don’t we know and what are we going to do about it?

There is a lot we don’t know or yet understand… but our aim is to change this through collaboration and conversation. We have created a network of interested program managers, researchers, government partners and funders working in the field of ECD. We have created the Evaluation Capacity Network (ECN) to support conversations among the partners to shift the way people think about evaluation. Evaluation is not a once a year event but an ongoing process for program reflection and improvement. We also want to understand and address capacity barriers around evaluation for ECD programs.

To date, the Network has engaged 35 partners across provincial and territorial government departments, university departments, funding agencies and community organizations. In the coming months we will:

  • Distribute a survey to ECD stakeholders involved in evaluation for feedback on their practices, thinking and capacity in evaluation;
  • Complete a report outlining the nature of the evaluation capacity issues within the ECD sector; and
  • Host forums across the province to foster critical discussions among partners about the true evaluation capacity needs within the field of ECD.

If you are interested in learning more about the ECN or joining us, please visit our webpage at www.cup.ualberta.ca/projects-initiatives/ecme/current-project-list/ecn-overview or email us at ecninfo@ualberta.ca.

Only by sharing your views, can you shift the conversation!

This article appeared in our March 2015 News Bulletin. Click here to read the rest of the bulletin!

FOCUS ON: Early Childhood Development Research & Knowledge Mobilization

Guest Contribution by: Aimee Caster, Communications Director for the Alberta Centre for Child, Family & Community Research (The Centre).

accfcr_logoEarly strong foundations result in the best possible outcomes for children.

The research is clear that the most important thing children need to thrive is to live in a supportive environment. That environment must include safe and caring relationships that begin at birth with a primary caregiver and extends to other adults in a child’s life.

Children who are at the greatest risk for the poorest outcomes – learning, health and behaviour, are children who accumulate a burden of risk factors – family violence, drug abuse, neglect, abuse, mental illness, poverty. The burden is more than any child could be expected to overcome.

In 2013, The Centre led the inclusion and analysis of eight questions focusing on adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) in the annual Alberta Adult Survey. In total, 1,207 completed interviews were conducted (a 20.9% response rate) with 612 females and 595 males. Three questions covered abuse, and the remaining five focused on aspects of household risk that can increase dysfunction.

  • Before the age of 18, 27.2% experienced abuse and 49.1% experienced family dysfunction.
  • ACEs rarely occur in isolation. Having one ACE increases the probability of experiencing another one by 84%.
  • Children who experienced more ACEs were more likely to be diagnosed with mental health conditions or substance dependence in adulthood.
  • Children who experienced more ACEs were more likely to perceive their physical health, emotional health and social support as poor.
  • The association between ACEs and poor health remained strong even when other risk factors for poor adult health outcomes, such as poverty, were taken into consideration.
  • Children who experienced both abuse and family dysfunction had the highest risk for negative health outcomes in adulthood.

Early childhood development is a primary focus area for our research and knowledge mobilization strategies at The Centre. We learned through the Early Years Continuum Project Evaluation that communities are effective in helping to build capacity to support healthy child development (prenatal to school entry). In Alberta, programs that seek to help adults with their own and childrens’ development were designed. For example, there are 46 Parent Link Centres (PLC’s) that provide parent and family supports to more than 160 communities across the province.

In September 2007, The Centre undertook the Alberta Benchmark Survey to determine what adults knew about child development. Over 1,400 Albertans from across the province participated by way of phone survey. They answered questions about their experiences with children and understanding of child development.

  • Adults were more aware of physical and cognitive developmental milestones of children than social and emotional milestones, although gaps in knowledge were identified.
  • Although knowledge of specific milestones was limited, adults were aware of how to support development.

These findings were presented to child health and parenting leaders to inform the development of programs, policies and future research. The study contributed to the goal of improving the health and well-being of children, families and communities in Alberta.

The 2007 Benchmark Survey provided baseline information. The results from a second survey in 2014 determined if public knowledge about early childhood development had increased over the past five years. Findings showed that there was a general appreciation of the importance of the “early years” for lifelong learning development and some understanding of how to support child development, but there were important gaps in knowledge of when children achieve specific developmental milestones. Parents were mostly confident about their parenting skills. There is an unmet need for child care among parents, and general satisfaction about child care among those using it.

These results suggest the need for the creation of an overarching framework that provides strategic direction and integration of supports. There is an opportunity to further normalize and make accessible already existing high-quality early years’ programs and services that support families and children’s healthy start.

There is a great deal of evidence on the benefits of investing in and supporting positive early childhood development. Yet we continue to see examples where children are facing challenges as a consequence of physical or environmental vulnerability.

We are pleased to support the provincial government’s Early Childhood Development Priority Initiative by co-chairing the Early Childhood Development Research and Innovation Strategy. The goals of the Strategy are to:

  • Build awareness of existing research and create ways to utilize current evidence;
  • Influence the creation of new knowledge to address gaps and anticipate the ongoing need for research; and
  • Create a collaborative environment that enhances relationships between researchers, policy makers, practitioners and the public.
  • We welcome input from readers that will help inform how we can work together to achieve these goals and build a stronger foundation of supports for early childhood development in Alberta.

The Centre collaborates with hundreds of research experts from across the province. Those who were a part of The Centre’s projects and initiatives mentioned in this article include Suzanne Tough, Dawne Clark, Michelle Gagnon, Sandy Davidge, Pamela Valentine, Cathie Scott, Angela Vinturache, Hamideh Bayrampour, Donna Slater, Ben Gibbard, Kathryn MacLellan, Rhonda Breitkreuz and Laurel Sakaluk-Moody.

To learn more about The Centre, our research, initiatives and projects related to early childhood development, please visit our website at www.research4children.com or call (780) 944-8636.

This article appeared in our March 2015 News Bulletin. Click here to read the rest of the bulletin!

FOCUS ON: Laying the Foundations for Self-Regulation

Guest Contribution by: Dr. Stuart Shanker, D. Phil, CEO of the MEHRIT Centre, Distinguished Research Professor, Department of Psychology, York University.

Dr. Shanker

In their 1996 Report on Aboriginal Peoples, the Royal Commission spelled out how: “Children hold a special place in Aboriginal cultures. According to tradition, they are gifts from the spirit world. They carry within them the gifts that manifest themselves as they become teachers, mothers, hunters, councilors, artisans and visionaries. They renew the strength of the family, clan and village and make the elders young again with their joyful presence.” Of all the treasures we have inherited from our First Nations, this may just be the most important.

The Canadian psyche is grounded in the belief that a safe and caring Nation is one that cares passionately about the needs of its children: all of its children. This moral conviction is embraced, not just from a sense of duty and compassion, but also foresight. After all, how else is Canada to become even more safe and caring, and lay the foundation for the next safe and caring generation, than by addressing the needs of its children?

But high-minded principles and passion alone are not enough to help families deal with the challenges they are struggling with today; even more important is to have practical strategies. And here is where recent scientific advances are profoundly supplementing traditional wisdom.

One of the most important of these advances is the realization that babies are all, in a fundamental sense, born “premature.” An extraordinary burst of neural growth and sculpting takes place in the first year of life, guided by the baby’s caregivers. In particular, a baby’s capacity for self-regulation–how she manages energy expenditure in response to stressors and then recovers from the effort–is being wired. So too is her “stress-reactivity”: the sensitivity of the alarm system buried deep in the brain that triggers fight-or-flight reactions.

The newborn’s basic needs haven’t altered from when she was inside the womb. She still needs to feel warm, safe and secure. For this critical first year of life, the caregiver has to carefully monitor and manage the baby’s needs. A big part of this is not only feeding the baby and making sure she’s not too hot or cold, but calming her when she’s startled.

We now know that babies are startled even while they’re in the womb, and even while they sleep. Because startle reactions consume so much energy, it’s imperative this doesn’t happen too often. The better a caregiver reads the baby’s signs and adjusts the stimulation or soothing to suit the baby’s needs, the more safe and secure the baby will feel.

A number of factors can interfere with a caregiver’s ability to perform this role. For example, severe illness might seriously interfere with a caregiver’s capacity to cope with the demands of caring for a baby. Physical absence limits the opportunities to cultivate the connection. Especially important are biological challenges in the newborn that can render arousal-regulation extremely challenging for baby and parent alike.

But quite often what parents most need is not education, but help with their own self-regulation. This is not simply because it is so much harder to care for a baby when we are over-stressed, but because, under severe stress, a caregiver’s very ability to read–let alone respond to–a baby’s cues is severely diminished.

A safe and caring Canada is one that recognizes the high levels of stress that so many families are struggling with today and the impact this has on their children.

  • To meet this challenge, parents—and indeed children and youth—need to master the five key steps of self-regulation:
  • Read the signs of excessive stress, in yourself as much as in your child
  • Identify the stressors
  • Reduce the stressors
  • Work on enhancing your self-awareness—bodily and emotional—first in yourself, and then in your child
  • Develop individualized coping strategies.

By practicing self-regulation, we will be able to nurture our next generation of “teachers, mothers, hunters, councilors, artisans and visionaries.”

This article appeared in our March 2015 News Bulletin. Click here to read the rest of the bulletin!

CHAMPION PROFILE: Nancy Gibson, PhD

by: Meaghan Trewin, Communications Coordinator

Nancy Gibson_webNancy Gibson is one of the newest members of Safe and Caring’s Board of Directors.
Nancy brings to Safe and Caring over 50 years of experience serving communities around the world in a multitude of different roles – as a nurse and, later, medical researcher in Sierra Leone; as a community leader and volunteer for numerous Edmonton-based NGOs; as a community wellness and research facilitator for the Tlicho community in the Northwest Territories; as the Science Director for the Canadian Circumpolar Institute; and as a Senior Researcher for CIET Canada.

Nancy started her academic career after her children had grown. While Chair of the Department of Human Ecology, she was able to combine her experience as a nurse, volunteer and community leader with her training as an anthropologist, to develop courses and research initiatives to reframe how students, researchers and medical personnel approached community studies.

Based on her years of experience serving communities, Nancy had come to realize that the “expert model,” where an external individual or an organization comes into a community, hands out pamphlets and uses their expertise in one particular area to tell that community what they need, simply doesn’t work. When developing her courses for community studies, Nancy “sought models for integrated and responsive community programming, responsive community-based research, so that the people in the communities were engaged. Engaging the community to help identify their priorities, design how to do the research in the community to learn more about the issues, and to decide what outcomes would best meet their needs.”

This is the model that Nancy has spent the past two decades developing, practicing and promoting, both through her academic career, as well as her ongoing community and humanitarian service. In this work, she has handed off her label as an “expert” for one she much prefers, that of “facilitator.”

Permeating all of Nancy’s professional and volunteer work, as well as her personal relationships as a wife, mother, grandmother, friend and mentor, is the principle of loving kindness. For example, one of the most important elements of Nancy’s work as a facilitator is building kind and trusting relationships within the communities she serves: a practice that leads to interesting and innovative results. Nancy cultivates kindness in her life by making it an active practice, taking time each morning to commit to making at least one kind act, and then at night, reflecting on the kindness she has experienced throughout the day and how she had acknowledged it. This mindful approach not only helps prioritize kindness, but also trains us to recognize and appreciate the kindness that others show.

According to Nancy, the benefits of practicing kindness are rewarding: “I believe this is how I am learning, and this is how I am becoming a better person, a role model for my family; this is how my relationships, friendships, my marriage become richer. It feeds my soul.”

What does kindness mean to Nancy Gibson?

“Kindness is conscious caring for yourself and others.”

 

– Nancy Gibson, Member of the Safe and Caring Board, Senior Researcher of CIET, Professor Emeritus & Former Chair of the Dept. of Human Ecology at the University of Alberta, Former Science Director of the Circumpolar Institute

This article appeared in our February 2015 News Bulletin. Click here to read the rest of the bulletin!

YOUTH PERSPECTIVES: Choosing A University or College

It’s that time of year. Many high school students are beginning to make some hard decisions about what to do after graduation. The decision of whether to go to university or college, and if so, where to go, is an important and challenging decision.

Safe and Caring asked our Youth Partner Logan Peters to share a bit about her own experience and things that she looked for when choosing to attend Mount Royal University.

Logan PetersI Love my Mount Royal University

by: Logan Peters

Choosing a post-secondary school can be a challenge; I know all about that. I spent months researching Canadian universities until I gave up and decided to take a year off after high school to work.

Before choosing a university, some important questions to ask yourself are; Do I know what I want to study? Am I willing to relocate? Am I ready to work hard?

Now I know what you’re thinking…

These questions freak you out! They stress you out! They make you shut down! Your school teachers make you think about these questions every single day and you still have no idea what you want to study.

You’re in luck my friend, Mount Royal University has two programs that are perfect for the undecided.  Lets face it, the majority of high school students have no clue what they want to do after they’re done school.

  1. In case you want to explore your options, the University Entrance Option program is an excellent way to get your foot in the door and explore possibilities while taking university-credited classes! This program is PRIME for upgrading any high school classes that you may have slacked off in. Here is a link for University Entrance Option.
  2. Another program you may want to look into is Open Studies. Open studies also allows you to explore your options and take random courses in order to find out what you like. All University credited programs will benefit you in the long run, no matter what major you choose. Here is a link for Open Studies.

Not only is Mount Royal a perfect school to discover your calling in, it also has a beautiful campus and was featured in the Huffington Post article titled “Most Beautiful University Campuses in Canada” Check it out here!

Fun facts about MRU

MRU has small class sizes; perfect for a student who needs a more hands on approach to learning. (Approx. 20-40 students)

  • MRU has a gym, climbing wall, swimming pool, and so much more.
  • MRU has clubs galore! If you love video games; there’s a club for that. If you like reading; there’s a club for that. If you like skiing/snowboarding; yup, there’s a club for that too.
  • MRU has quiet study spaces all over campus
  • Professors at MRU make it their goal to give you the help you need
  • There is a campus bar called The Hub, which features events and concerts.
  • Food trucks are often parked outside of school, YUM!

 

COMMUNITY: Acts of Kindness from Alberta Education

February’s Guest Perspective is by: School and Community Supports for Children and Youth Branch, Alberta Education

AB Ed

Did you make a new year’s resolution? It’s still early in 2015, so let’s be optimistic and assume you are still on track with your plan. Common resolutions include losing weight, exercising more, getting out of debt, and helping others. Did you include one of these? The good news is that research indicates if you made a formal resolution, you are ten times more likely to make improvements than someone who didn’t make a resolution and that if you share your resolution with a friend you are 33% more successful than those who didn’t.

Let’s consider the resolution: “helping others.” With Random Acts of Kindness Week coming, we have a wonderful opportunity to make or renew our resolution to help others. It started in a California restaurant in 1982 when Anne Herbert scrawled “practice random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty” on a placemat. The Random Acts of Kindness movement inspires schools, communities and organizations across the world to choose to show kindness to others with no expectation of reward. And it appears that the more kindness is paid forward, the healthier and safer communities become.

Many schools in Alberta embrace the opportunity to practice random acts of kindness. This focus builds on the government’s recently released Alberta’s Plan for Promoting Healthy Relationships and Preventing Bullying and Alberta Education’s commitment to ensuring our schools are welcoming, caring, respectful and safe learning environments. This webpage has information and resources that help enable schools to implement strategies to support healthy relationships.  With a whole school approach, students are in environments where showing kindness is valued and encouraged.  Research confirms that people who perform acts of kindness feel positive emotions and are happier. It also shows that happy people become happier by counting their acts of kindness for one week, as well as the fact they become kinder and more grateful through this subjective counting. This is the very thing that can promote and support positive mental health for participants, including children and young people.

Children and youth who are mentally healthy are more likely to build healthy relationships, value diversity, and demonstrate respect, empathy, and compassion. Alberta Education’s Mental Health Matters webpage promotes positive mental health with a series of tools and resources, including posters and activity guides.

Promoting healthy relationships and showing kindness builds a positive school culture which can help prevent bullying. It was a random act of kindness at Central Kings Rural High School in Nova Scotia when two Grade 12 students organized the wearing of pink shirts. It began when a Grade 9 student, on his first day at the school, wore a pink polo shirt. Some of his peers publicly mocked him for wearing pink and threatened to beat him up. David Shepherd and Travis Price decided to take action. They went to a discount store and bought 50 pink shirts. They emailed classmates to invite them to join the action. The next day, not only did dozens of students wear the pink shirts David and Travis brought, but hundreds of students showed up wearing their own pink clothes. Since then, schools, communities, and organizations across Canada have participated in Pink Shirt Day by encouraging people to wear pink as both a proactive message of support for those who have experienced bullying and as a demonstration of a commitment to refrain from bullying behaviours.

Alberta Education remains committed to bullying prevention in Alberta’s schools and communities and the Government of Alberta provides information and resources on the Bully Free Alberta website.

Let’s join together in supporting both Random Acts of Kindness Week (February 9-15, 2015) and Pink Shirt Day (February 25, 2015). We can make a difference in 2015 – for ourselves, our schools, our communities, and the world.

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

– Margaret Mead

This article will be appearing in our February 2015 News Bulletin, which will be published later this week. Click here to read our past bulletins!

 

FOCUS ON: What You Can Do To Support LGBTQ Youth

by: Meaghan Trewin, Communications Coordinator and David Rust, Director of Community Partnerships

The Society for Safe and Caring Schools & Communities believes in the vision that all children and youth deserve to grow and develop in safe, caring and inclusive environments. LGBTQ children and youth face unique vulnerabilities as they realize their sexuality or gender identity is different from those around them, and Safe and Caring has prioritized helping to reduce the risks they face and to increase protective factors in their schools and communities.

Recent findings from the Youth Chances survey of LGBTQ youth in England have found that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or questioning ideation and activity started as early as 13 years of age within their sample group. This same survey has found that LGBTQ youth experience significantly higher levels of verbal, physical and sexual abuse than their heterosexual and non-trans peers, and that they feel substantially less accepted in their local communities.

These concerning results are consistent with findings from research in the Canadian context by Egale Canada. Their report Every Class in Every School: First National Climate Survey on Homophobia, Biphobia, and Transphobia in Canadian Schools (2011) found that 74% of trans students and 55% of sexual minority students have been verbally harassed about their gender expression, and that 21% of LGBTQ students reported being physically harassed or assaulted due to their sexual orientation. With such high rates of harassment, it does not come as a surprise that almost two-thirds of LGBTQ students and students with LGBTQ parents reported that they feel unsafe at school.

The Chief Public Health Officer’s Report on the State of Public Health in Canada (2011) also identified the need for building and maintaining supportive and caring environments for all Canadian youth as a priority area for action.

This report advised that “interventions need to create environments that support and recognize the unique needs of all youth and young adults… In addition, interventions must offer appropriate services to meet specific needs (e.g. those that are culturally, LGBTQ and gender appropriate). Supportive environments help create assets that enable individuals to overcome adversity (e.g. discrimination and bullying) often faced by those who are marginalized.”

So what can teachers, school administrators and other stakeholders do in their own personal approach to improve all students’ experiences of their school climate?

The most important thing to know is that you are not alone in your efforts. As Mark Ramsankar, President of the ATA shared in his interview with us for his Champion Profile, organizations like “the ATA and Safe and Caring are here to support the work you do, we have the tools, the opportunities are there.”

Andrea Berg talks about some of the available tools and resources offered through the ATA in her Guest Perspective article, including the Guide for Teachers: Gay-Straight Student Alliances in Alberta Schools and the PRISM Toolkit for Safe and Caring Discussions About Sexual and Gender Minorities, as well as the Safe Spaces materials offered in partnership with Safe and Caring.

In addition, the enclosed inserts What Can I Do? 7 Things Adults Can Do To Support LGBTQ Youth and 10 Steps to Creating a GSA in Your School (reprinted with permission from SOS Safety Magazine) offer some straightforward and practical strategies and things to consider so that you can continue working towards building the safe, caring and inclusive culture where all LGBTQ individuals feel welcome.

Take the time to explore these resources and share them within your community. Reach out to the ATA or Safe and Caring to learn more about how we or our partners can support you in your work!

And remember, if you or anyone you know is experiencing homophobic or transphobic bullying, call the Bullying Helpline at 1-888-456-2323 or visit Bully Free Alberta at www.bullyfreealberta.ca to access Government of Alberta supports.

This article appeared in our January 2015 News Bulletin. Click here to read the rest of the bulletin!

Sources:
Egale Canada Human Rights Trust. (2011). Every Class in Every School: The First National Climate Survey on Homophobio, Biphobia, and Transphobia in Canadian Schools. Final Report. Toronto, ON: Taylor, C., T. Peter, T.L. McMinn, T. Elliott, S. Beldom, A. Ferry, Z. Gross, S. Paquin, and K. Schachter.
Public Health Agency of Canada. (2011). The Chief Public Health Officer’s Report on the State of Public Health in Canada, 2011: Youth and Young Adults — Life in Transition. Ottawa, ON: Butler-Jones, D., Chief Public Health Officer of Canada.
METRO Youth Chances. (2014). Youth Chances Summary of First Findings: The Experiences of LGBTQ Young People in England. London: METRO

 

CHAMPION PROFILE: Mark Ramsankar, President of the ATA

by: Meaghan Trewin, Communications Coordinator

mark ramsankar

Mark Ramsankar is a true champion for Alberta students, teachers and school staff. Mark has worked in the field of education since 1986. Prior to his election as ATA President in 2013, he served variably as a teacher, Assistant Principal and President of the Edmonton Public Teachers Local.

Throughout his career, Mark’s focus has been concern and respect for students and student learning in the classroom, and finding creative ways to help other educators keep the same focus. In his current role, Mark is thrilled to have the opportunity to “represent and support teachers from all of Alberta’s Public schools, Catholic schools and Francophone schools. One key area of support that Mark and the ATA provide is a variety of initiatives and resources designed to help teachers foster safe, caring and inclusive spaces in their classrooms, including the longstanding Safe Spaces initiative (in partnership with Safe and Caring), the Diversity, Equity and Human Rights (DEHR) programs and the recently released PRISM Toolkit for Safe and Caring Discussions About Sexual and Gender Minorities. Research has shown that safety and mental health are key factors in students’ academic and personal success, and according to Mark, “children’s safety and mental well-being come in a variety of packages… We need to keep our eyes on the broad horizon and talk about all children’s needs.

With almost three decades of experience as an educator, Mark has seen profound developments in how teachers, administrators, parents and policy makers understand “just how complex schools and classrooms really are.” Mark is thrilled to have seen increased willingness from all stakeholders to talk about, prioritize and educate themselves on ways to support students in areas of bullying, cyberbullying, mental health, sexual and gender identity and cultural diversity. “Being able to talk about it has really helped; it’s really forcing the action that we seek.” Teachers are now better equipped than ever to identify issues, and they continue to look to organizations like the ATA and Safe and Caring for support to deal with the issues. “That’s why Safe and Caring is such an important organization, because they are a source of resources and support for teachers in these critical areas.”

Looking forward, Mark sees tremendous opportunity for educators in Alberta. With a growing population and shifting demographic, “we need to welcome these changes head on.” Policy makers and educators alike need to continue to focus their efforts on creating those safe spaces in classrooms that will allow our next generation to flourish. With all policy decisions:

“We need to ask: How does this impact the classroom? Is it directly impacting kids? Do teachers understand it and do teachers know how to implement it? That has to be in place.”

 

– Mark Ramsankar, President of the ATA

For teachers who are trying to create safer, more caring and more inclusive spaces in their own classrooms, Mark encourages them to keep pushing forward: “Take the risk and look for support. You need to be able to take the risks in order to support the children in your classroom, but you have to be willing to take that risk. Don’t ever hesitate to ask for support. The ATA and Safe and Caring are here to support the work you do, we have the tools, the opportunities are there.”

This article appeared in our January 2015 News Bulletin. Click here to read the rest of the bulletin!

CHAMPION PROFILE: Pixel Blue College

by: Meaghan Trewin, Communications Coordinator

This month, we recognize community champion Pixel Blue College for their generous pledge of $100,000 to a scholarship for youth, to be administered in partnership with Safe and Caring. The Pixel Blue and Safe and Caring “Collaborate and Create” Scholarship will be distributed to youth interested in giving back to their communities through a career in digital media and communication.

Founded in partnership by Curtis Greenland, Michelle Demeres and Frank Phillet, Pixel Blue College specializes in delivering practical and hands-on training in digital media, graphic design and communication. The “Collaborate and Create” Scholarship is part of Pixel Blue’s longstanding community capacity-building strategy, the foundation of which is reaching out to, educating and providing unofficial mentorship for at-risk youth.

According to Curtis Greenland, Director of Education, Pixel Blue prioritizes working with those youth that have fallen through the cracks in a more traditional education environment.

Says Curtis, “Working with at-risk youth that have struggled academically can be incredibly rewarding – seeing that light bulb that suddenly goes on when they realize that they are able to get paid to do something that they are passionate about, and that no one really cares what their past is. The effect can be transformational.”

Ultimately, Pixel Blue wants all of their students to succeed and find their place in the world, to become happy and contributing members of society. As part of this goal, the College also partners with local not-for-profit organizations to connect their students with hands-on design experience. Pixel Blue asks participating organizations to submit requests for design work and assigns them to students. This benefits the organizations, which receive high quality marketing and design collateral for free, as well as the students, who are able to add professional-level work to their portfolios and gain confidence in client-designer relations.

This arrangement has the added benefit of introducing students to local community groups and encouraging them to get involved in charity work throughout their careers. This philosophy of giving back to the community is one that the Pixel Blue team strongly supports in their own lives. Curtis, for example, works with the Pride Centre of Edmonton, and encourages his employees to find their own ways of giving back, including allowing them flexible hours and extra time off as needed for volunteer work.

This article appeared in our December 2014 News Bulletin. Click here to read the rest of the bulletin!

If you, or someone you know, is interested in learning more about or applying for the Safe and Caring Pixel Blue “Collaborate and Create” Scholarship, visit: www.safeandcaring.ca/collaborate-create-scholarship-program to learn more!

YOUTH PERSPECTIVES: Giving Thanks and Giving Back

by: Dada Alice Mwemera, Youth Engagement Coordinator

DSC_0198, lightened and thumbnailThe holidays are right around the corner!

Personally, as a university student, this means breathing time! Finals are done in the second week of December and I have just under a month to enjoy time with friends, family and loved ones. As a young person, I speak for most of my generation when I say that often, we see the holidays as a chance to hang out, sleep in and relax.

For me, an important part of enjoying this time of relaxation is giving back to those in need. During the holidays, I like to think of one or two agencies that do amazing work and ask myself, What can I do to help them? What can I do to help share my stress-free holiday bliss with someone else (a family, child, shelter)?

I have personally done a lot of volunteer and charity work, and my motivation for doing so doesn’t stem from being a “good kid” or “a nice person.” I once depended on the Christmas boxes when my family survived on very little income. I was once a pediatric patient at the Stollery Children’s Hospital for months at a time and the movies, laptops, games and books that were donated or bought helped me stay connected to other kids and the world around me. I was once in a group home and could not believe that we would get gifts from random strangers when we felt so lost ourselves.

“Giving hope to the hopeless, love to the weary and strength to the weak” – that is the true meaning of the holidays for me. So I challenge each and every one of us, youth and adults alike, to give back, even in the smallest ways. Teachers and parents, encourage your kids to donate old clothes, volunteer at a soup kitchen or maybe play an instrument at a children’s hospital!

The benefits, you might ask? An amazing resume that will show the world the experience you have gained and the skills and knowledge you’ve acquired! Plus a truly happy holiday heart for those you touch and yourself!

This article appeared in our December 2014 News Bulletin. Click here to read the rest of the bulletin!