Every Child Deserves Support
Admiral Seymour Elementary School is located in Vancouver's Downtown East Side and is one of our city's needy inner city schools. Seymour's population is made up of 133 students enrolled in 7 divisions, including a district class for students with Learning Disabilities + Behaviour Disorders. The demographics of our learning community are diverse; over 70% of our students speak another language at home other than English, 32% of our students are aboriginal, and 25% of our students have been identified with having special learning challenges such as learning disabilities, behavioral challenges and medical diagnosis. Many of our students do not have designations that warrant ministry funding for support. However, they are our most vulnerable children. The ones who are perpetually filled with sadness and anxiety. These are the children who seem to be falling through the cracks.
The Vancouver School Board's motto is," It is our collective responsibility to ensure the highest quality learning experiences for all students, with a focus on student engagement, learning and development in a safe, inclusive environment." We at Seymour are striving to meet this goal with the limited resources that we have. Truth be told, it is next to impossible to have a child, who is so overwhelmed with deep emotional pain, focus on a math or science lesson. In order to be successful with these children, we need to address their social emotional needs.
At this time we have a counselor who comes to our school for 1 afternoon a week. Which equals 2 to 3 blocks a week to service our students who are in need. Our counselor's time is appointed to us according to the district funding formula, not on a student needs basis. So we are currently using our Community School Team money to employ an Art Therapist for 2 days a week. This time allows our emotionally fragile students to share 12 blocks of her time. Therefore in a 35 block school week, our students only have 14 to 15 blocks for which they can possibly receive support. Sadly, it's just not enough so we've had to prioritize and send only the children with the most extreme need. Which breaks our hearts.... how can we not support all of our students who need this service? Yes, we have important learning happening but we also have a lot of tears. We give our hugs, have gentle conversations and show how much we love them and how wonderful we think they are, but it's just not enough. These children need one to one attention where they can work through their traumas and begin to heal emotionally. They need to be able to have a place to go where they can openly discuss their heartbreaks and fears in private. They need someone who can facilitate positive social emotional development. They need to be shown that they matter, we care and school is a place where we help them no matter what the needs are.
Therefore, our goal is to set up and provide our students with a well equipped therapeutic art room where an Expressive Art Therapist (EXAT) can counsel our emotionally fragile students. EXATs are trained in child centered therapy through the use of drawing, painting, music, dance/movement, storytelling, journaling, sculpting, play, drama etc. We would use the funding to successfully create an inviting, resource filled Therapeutic art room. Any remaining money would be used to top up our Art therapist's time so that we would have a full time therapist from January 2012 until June 2013. This support blitz would hugely impact our students and help them to learn how to deal with their emotions in positive ways. Our students' need for more support is urgent and extreme. They will be deeply impacted by receiving this support in a safe, caring environment so much so that it could alter the course of their futures and impact them for the rest of their lives. This opportunity for them has the potential to alter their self image, their self awareness and their self confidence. Imagine what impact that could have on our society as a whole! Happy well adjusted adolescents and adults equal less need for dependence on government agencies (social services, health care, housing), less criminal activity, less of a drain on society! Supporting our students will benefit an infinite number of people beginning with our students and branching out to our community and our society a as a whole!
So, we humbly ask for your vote to support our efforts to secure funding so that we will be able to provide a safe, private place for our vulnerable students to work with a trained professional to help them overcome their current emotional challenges and develop positive self images. Each child should be given the opportunity to reach his or her potential. Please help us do that for our children at Seymour.
(We were encouraged to submit our proposal as a result of this wonderful letter written by our grade 2/3 teacher. http://www.vancouversun.com/pdf/tothepeopleofvancouver.pdf)