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West Alternative Program Arms Students with Real World Skills

West students talk about why they love their program.

Students were all smiles at the West Alt Ed Graduation Ceremony on Tuesday, June 4. During the ceremony, students were individually honoured for their hard work and diligence in completing the unique program, which blends an intimate community with activity (both inside and outside the classroom), business savvy lessons and real-life learning that incorporates arts, sciences, physical activity and math.

One student who has significantly benefitted from the program is Grade 10 student Charisse Shimenosky. 

Shimenosky received a number of awards including a special one for her academic success and contributions to the program's community. She says that West's close knit community created a secure environment with lots of friends, which has allowed her to be very successful academically. 

"There are such friendly staff at West and they really understand people's situations," she says.

Sophie Elder-Labrie another Grade 10 West student echoed Shimenosky's comments.

"West is a really unique school because it isn't too focused on all the things that make us bored about school," she says. "Academics are important and we need to do it, but it is more of a community thing - a really close group where we learn more about life skills." 

Both Elder-Labrie and Shimenosky say the program acts as a “school of life” to prepare them for the rest of their lives. In addition to the usual academic curriculum, the program also incorporates personal finance lessons such as how to save, how to create a budget and how to shop for a household.

West teacher Frank Iuele says that while the personal finance lessons are critical, a big highlight of the program this year for him was connected to the arts. During this year's grad ceremony, Iuele spoke about the growth of West's music program. After Iuele picked up a few guitars and dropped them off in the classroom, he was amazed to watch some of his students pick up the instruments and teach themselves to play. After only a few months of self-taught guitar practice, one West student demonstrated a real aptitude for the instrument and was able to perform at the recent Alternative Art Fair kick off concert.

In addition to the music program, students, special guests and parents also heard about the school's innovative anti-bullying video and their successful fundraising drive that pulled in over $5,000 to help build a school in Africa.

Following the award ceremony, students were treated the next day to a limo ride to the Cactus Club at English Bay as well as a tour around the Stanley Park area.

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