Take A High high school students on a multi-day camping trip. (Take A Hike photo)

Take A High high school students on a multi-day camping trip. (Take A Hike photo)

Mental health-focused learning program starting at Stz’uminus school

Take a Hike program announces another education partnership

Stz’uminus First Nation is partnering with Take a Hike to bring a new youth mental health program to the region.

Take a Hike Foundation announced in a press release this month that its newest program is starting in Ladysmith in partnership with the Stz’uminus Education Society.

The “unique land-based learning and mental health program” will be based at the Stz’uminus Community School and will serve teens in Grade 10-12.

Gordon Matchett, CEO of Take a Hike, said his group was “thrilled” when it was approached by the Stz’uminus Education Society about bringing the program to the school.

“We are aware of the crucial learning and growth that will take place within our program’s construct as we work to support Indigenous youths across all our programs,” he said. “We are grateful to collaborate with Stz’uminus educators and community members to ensure that Indigenous youth are supported and empowered.”

Take a Hike said the new program will be its first with a First Nations community, though 35 per cent of current participants in the program – including youths in Nanaimo, Cowichan Valley and Saanich – are Indigenous.

Take a Hike stated in the release that it will ensure education delivery “that is culturally appropriate and community-driven.”

Take a Hike offers a full-time mental health and emotional well-being program embedded in an alternate education classroom that includes outdoor experiential learning. According to the organization, three out of four youths who participate reported a feeling of belonging and safety, hope and satisfaction with their lives, friendships and connections with peers, and gains in mental health and well-being.

Charlene Smith, Take a Hike manager of philanthropy for Vancouver Island, said the program had a 97-per cent grad rate in 2021-22.

Brett Hancock, principal of Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools learning alternatives, said Take a Hike students become better at coping with stress.

“They become far more resilient, especially given the times of going through a global pandemic … this program is very good at helping them effectively deal with it with different strategies and through time in nature,” he said. “Our graduates, I’m confident, are able to navigate tasks of young adulthood and for furthering their education.”

Justin Magnuson, education administrator with the Stz’uminus Education Society, noted in the release that the school has recently put the finishing touches on a new classroom that will be a “perfect fit” for Take a Hike.

“The classroom took its inspiration from the colours, shape and textures of the traditional territory of the Coast Salish peoples,” he said.

-files from Karl Yu/News Bulletin

READ ALSO: Nanaimo-Ladysmith students benefit from ‘Take a Hike’ education model


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