Reaching out to at risk youth, families

Schools Plus opens community room at ARHS

Darrell Cole
Published on September 26, 2011
Schools Plus outreach worker Marvin Hairston and program facilitator Kim Wood look over information on the program with Chignecto family of schools supervisor Karla Mitchell-Smith and Chignecto-Central Regional School Board educational services director Scott Milner. The program opened a new community room at ARHS on Monday. Darrell Cole – Amherst Daily News

AMHERST – A program that reaches out to troubled youth and their families has been given another boost.

The program, that started as a pilot project in Amherst and has now expanded across the province, opened its first community room at Amherst Regional High School and would like to see additional rooms opened at other schools in the future.

“The community room offers a place for community partners to come in and offer programs and activities for families and students,’ Schools Plus facilitator Kim Wood said. “Before this room was made available there was no designated spot for partners to come to hold sessions or to meet one-on-one with students. Often they would have to go around the school to find a place to meet.”

The community room has a home-like atmosphere including musical instruments, video games, board games and other things that would make clients and their families more comfortable. There is also easy access to the school gymnasium and outdoor basketball courts for various recreational activities.

Jennifer Furlong of the Cumberland Community Alternatives Society has seen the benefits of Schools Plus since it was first offered locally.

“We have a number of clients that are mutual clients of Schools Plus and it has always been an issue with not having a place to go where they feel comfortable and they don’t feel like they’re being pushed along,” Furlong said. “There’s no one to say you don’t belong here and there are adults to help them along if they’re looking for some direction on how to find a particular resource.”

Schools Plus is part of the province’s child and youth strategy and responds to the recommendations of the Nunn report that was commissioned after a teenager driving a stolen car hit and killed a Halifax teachers’ assistant in 2004.

More than 2,000 students and their families are able to benefit from Schools Plus at ARHS, E.B. Chandler Junior High, Spring Street Academy, Cumberland North Academy and West Highlands Elementary as well as at Northport Elementary.