After School Programming Launched for Montcalm Students

London—Two days per week for two hours after school, Montcalm secondary school students have the opportunity to access self-defense instruction, homework assistance, and practical and educational instruction in healthy eating.

This program was originally proposed by the African Community Council for African youth, who have the highest dropout rate among students in the Thames Valley District School Board; but it is open to students of all ethnic backgrounds.

The program’s official launch on February 10th was attended by Mayor Joe Fontana and Shawn Lewis as a representative for MP Irene Mathyssen who had to be in Ottawa.

“Having taught in schools all across London, I know the value of a program like this. It helps to even the playing field a little because students don’t all have the same opportunities,” said Mathyssen in a statement. “A lot of families in this area have been particularly hard-hit, but the need is everywhere.”

Deeq Abdi of the African Community Council, who initiated the idea, said Mathyssen’s support of the program was instrumental in convincing provincial politicians to help fund the program. “We kept being told no, no, no, until Irene got involved. Even though it is not her level of government, she made the calls, set-up meetings, and advocated on our behalf until we had success,” said Abdi.

Program Co-ordinator Lucy Karanja said the unstructured program provides experience-based learning for the students, including information about and practice preparing nutritious food. Sometimes the students didn’t even recognize some of the foods they were learning about, like broccoli. This part of the program is made possible with volunteer students from Brescia College.”

The pilot project began in October, 2010 and runs until the end of the school year, funded until the end of March by a grant of $30,000 from the Ministry of Health Promotion.