Sandy Balascak. Photo: Barry Gerding/Black Press

Teaching at-risk kids to reach their potential

Agassiz alternate school head offers program at UBCO this summer

Sandy Balascak draws a distinction between labelling kids as problem youth rather than youth with problems.

“When you say someone is a problem youth, you imply there is something wrong with that kid. However, that kid may not have a problem, but instead have gone through some kind of trauma or had something happen to them that has caused that angst,” Balascak said.

“Deep down these are smart and good kids. For a variety of reasons they are not able to reach their potential and show what they are capable of.

“Their behaviour is just a branch of the bigger question of ‘Why?’ You just have to keep asking that question until you get to the root of it. Once you reach that point, you can never undo the damage but you can teach these kids to manage their issues and turn them into strengths.”

Balascak has been drilling down to find answers to the ‘why’ question with her alternate school students for the past decade as administrator for the Agassiz Centre for Education with the Fraser-Cascade School District in the eastern Fraser Valley.

Related: Okanagan College Enactus teams develop at-risk youth program concepts

While she laughs at what she calls her sometimes unorthodox teaching methods such bringing senior citizens into the class and empathy sessions with babies, her overriding desire is to help each student find a healthy progressive path to adulthood and to change people’s attitudes about her students.

“Ten year ago my students were called thugs and criminals. Our school was in a rural area and when we moved it into Agassiz, people in town complained to the school trustees, saying we don’t want those kids mixing with our kids,” she recalled.

“Over time we changed Agassiz people’s minds on that so I thought why not try to change other people’s minds as well.”

That led Balascak to apply to teach an innovative course called “Problem Youth vs. Youth With Problems” through the UBC Okanagan Summer Institute in Education program.

Balascak hopes to share her experiences with post-secondary education students and current teachers, culminating with a final classroom session in which her Agassiz students will talk about their personal stories, what worked and did not work for them in school and how adults can gain a better understanding of how to get troubled youth back on track.

“The kids are pretty excited about coming here for that session and it will be interesting for the course participants because they are very open and frank in talking about their lives,” she said.

Balascak remembers an alternate education conference she attended years ago where a teacher like her talked about her students as being drug addicts and criminals.

“I thought to myself when I heard that, ‘Wow, if you believe that it will be become a self-fulfilling prophecy. I want to do better for them then just try to get them through school and wish them good luck in their life,” she said.

Balascak’s course will run from July 23 to Aug. 4, 1 to 4:30 p.m. Monday to Friday. For more information on how to register online, see https://education.ok.ubc.ca/programs/sie.html or email the UBCO education faculty at www.sie.education@ubc.ca.

To report a typo, email: edit@kelownacapnews.com.


@BarryGerding
barry.gerding@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Bandits steal Vernon Jazz Club stage

Milk Crate Bandits perform Oct. 20

CFNO site queries Vernon council, mayor candidates

Community Foundation of the North Okanagan has launched vitalvernon.org

2019 IPE tickets on sale now

The theme for next year’s annual exhibition and stampede in Armstrong is ”Horsin’ Around”.

Okanagan College looks to reduce natural gas consumption

The college’s natural gas consumption has dropped 51.7 per cent in a decade

The 50th annual Vernon Ski Swap

According to representatives, hundreds lined up starting at 7 a.m. to get a first look at the equipment.

Documentary series investigates missing North Okanagan women

APTN Investigates: Dark Valley airs Oct. 19

Enbridge to begin building road to access pipeline explosion site in B.C.

An explosion Tuesday knocked out a 91-centimetre line

Andrew Scheer on revamped NAFTA deal: ‘I would have signed a better one’

Conservative leader says he wouldn’t have signed USMCA

Matheson will have NHL hearing after Canucks rookie Pettersson hit

The 19-year-old Swedish centre appeared woozy after the hit

GUEST COLUMN: A better way to manage B.C.’s public construction

Claire Trevena responds to Andrew Wilkinson on NDP union policy

B.C. brewery creates bread beer from food waste

The brew aims to raise food waste awareness and provide funds for the food bank

Dad files Charter challenge after B.C. bans kids from taking transit unsupervised

Adrian Crook is taking his fight to B.C. Supreme Court

B.C. VIEWS: Cast your municipal vote for sanity on homelessness

Thousands on waiting list while anti-capitalist bullies get priority

Most Read