When teacher Michelle Freebairn asked her students if they would like to take part in Relay for Life, she was met with an enthusiastic response.
Freebairn is a teacher in School District 22’s Alternative Learning Program (ALP) and she was looking for a project for her students to get involved in, to give them the opportunity to experience some fundraising and community events.
“It’s all part of our leadership program and thanks to Kidston and Company, we have been able to register all of our students in the Relay for Life in Vernon on June 6,” said Freebairn. “Currently, we are working on planning a variety of fundraisers where our students will collect donations as well as sell crafts they have produced.
“I’ve tried to let the kids themselves direct the project based on what they want to make.”
Brooklyn Monroe and Maariah Williams-Baig are two of the 32 students who have signed up for the annual Relay for Life, a fundraiser for the Canadian Cancer Society.
Students have been busy making a variety of items to be sold as fundraisers throughout the community, including greeting cards, dream catchers, key chains and jewellery.
“I’m enjoying it because it gets me close with people here, and it is a cause close to my heart because my mom has cancer and my great-grandma had breast cancer,” said Williams-Baig, 14.
For Monroe, 15, Relay for Life also has a personal meaning: her grandfather lost his battle with cancer, and her grandma has been diagnosed with the disease.
“Everyone has been touched by cancer,” said Monroe, who has made some cross-stitched pieces to sell, along with bracelets and necklaces.
ALP serves students from Grades 8 to 10 who are unable to find success in typical district high schools for a variety of reasons.
Freebairn said getting involved in Relay for Life has been a great way of having her students engage with the community.
“A lot of the kids here have dealt with a lot of stuff in their lives, so for me it’s a way to have them engage with the community, to allow them to see things in a different light,” she said. “All the kids here are very resilient, but regardless of what they have been through, they are here to work.
“We run a very structured program so this gives them a chance to interact in a fun way.”
For Williams-Baig, who was previously at Vernon secondary school, being at ALP has given her a fresh start.
“I find it easier to focus at ALP and they teach us at our own level,” she said. “Before, I could not ask for help because I was too embarrassed.”
For Monroe, the program’s smaller classes and personalized attention has made school much more enjoyable for her.
“I learn differently because I have sensory issues and I made it a year at Fulton but it just got too overwhelming so I stopped going,” she said. “My mom tried to help but it didn’t work. It’s been much better — here I get my work done.”
The students have two upcoming fundraisers. They will be at the downtown Safeway May 28 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., selling their handcrafted items by donation to Relay for Life, and at Walmart June 2.
Relay for life is June 6 at Polson Park from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.