Dragon boating helps build skills for life

It's all big smiles and laughter as a dozen Grade 8, 9 and 10 students from the VSB Foundations Program clamber on to a False Creek dock - they've just had their first lesson in dragon boat paddling. This was the start of a 10-session series for the group. Many have not been in a small boat before, let alone paddled one.

Foundations is an alternative program that works with youth facing challenging life circumstance who benefit from a non-traditional learning environment. Students study in the morning then focus on social and recreational activities in the afternoon. A team of three educators -- teacher Christopher Hodges, school and student support worker Sophia Kotsovos and youth and family worker Aniz Jiwani -- work to inspire and motivate the 22 students enrolled, challenging them to develop constructive coping skills.

"Success is represented by engagement and accountability," says Jiwani. "We're looking at what we can do to achieve resiliency. Dragon boating is a good start to building team work and community in our program."

Dragon Boat BC executive director Ann Phelps was instrumental in bringing the necessary coaches and resources together. A substantial private donation meant Phelps could offer each of the students a full set of brand new gear; now they will be able to practice throughout the year, whatever the weather.

The educators hope dragon boating will become a signature event for the class and they have plans for students to compete in races.

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