Windermere Secondary’s Get R.E.A.L. program has gone virtual! Get R.E.A.L., which stands for resilient, engaged, active leaders, is a weekly after school program led by the Windermere Community School Team and community partner organizations. The program focuses on strengthening protective factors in secondary school aged youth – such as resilience, community, connectedness and personal wellness in an inclusive environment.
The staff team consists of a Community Schools Coordinator, Youth and Family Worker, Programmers and a Youth Programmer from Frog Hollow Neighbourhood House. Each member on the team have adapted the program so it can continue while students remain physically apart due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It is important for students that Get R.E.A.L. continues virtually because it allows for students to meaningfully participate in a variety of activities, discussions, and positive peer interaction; and will help to foster resilience during this tumultuous time,” shares Qwisun Yoon-Potkins, who facilitates the program.
Youth and Family Worker Kirsty Babcock explains the program helps dispel the feeling of isolation teens may be experiencing. “Our hope is youth will enjoy a sense of community and belonging that they had during the in-person meetings,” says Babcock.
After reaching out to participants, 70 students have decided to take part remotely so far. Before remaining physically distant was a necessity, the groups typically met on a weekly basis to hear from guest speakers, go on field trips and participate in workshops. Now, these groups of students are connecting from their living rooms.
The choice of topics and activities explored is a decision made by students’ requests. So far students have discussed themes to do with kindness, solidarity, healthy relationships and mental health. “The initial priority as we move virtually has been to renew the strong relationships between students and staff and learn about what new student needs have emerged,” explains Windermere Community Schools Coordinator, Chelan Wallace. Participants have highlighted to staff the topics of physical exercise and mental health during these times. Get R.E.A.L. participants will receive mats to participate in yoga, mindfulness, stretching and movement activities facilitated using group sessions in the online collaboration space, Microsoft TEAMS Classroom.
“We are fortunate through a grant from the Province of BC’s Civil Forfeiture Office to be able to continue to provide program snacks and materials to Get R.E.A.L. students and we are developing creative ways to deliver these such as weekly food app e-transfers for participants to enjoy a snack during program times,” Wallace adds.
While student learning as directed by teachers remains the emphasis during the school day, the hope is that the continuation of this program during after school hours will provide some weekly structure and a much-needed sense of normalcy for participants.