School District opts to ‘Take a Hike’

By on February 7, 2018
The Take a Hike program aims to get at-risk students back on track for graduation. (Photo courtesy of Jordan Lui).



School District 58 is hoping to soon be offering a new program aimed at helping at-risk youth cross the graduation stage.

“The Take a Hike program is reaching out in an expansion [effort] to increase the number of students they’re working with and the number of programs they have across the province,” said School District 58 superintendent Steve McNiven.

Take a Hike is an alternative education program currently operating in three other districts in B.C., that engages at-risk youth through adventure-based learning, academics, therapy and community involvement, in an effort to get their dogwood diploma.

SD 58 wants to become one of the districts the program expands to next, having engaged in talks with program organizers last year.

“We were just in the exploratory stage and hoping to be considered for a program here, but part of the criteria at that point was a large, financial commitment on the part of the community and stakeholders in order to help fund the program,”McNiven said.

About $200,000 per year is required to run the program, however, Take a Hike is no longer asking each community to raise the full amount on its own, and is instead seeking government funding to offset the cost.

“It hasn’t been secured yet, but we think we’re on a good track,” said program support co-ordinator, Sevan Kadian, noting it’s not easy for small, rural communities to raise the funds on their own.

The local school district is currently on a list of communities interested in bringing the program to Merritt, said SD 58 principal of student support services Jane Kempston.

“We have a much better chance than we did six months ago because I didn’t know how we were going to do that [amount of] fundraising every year,” said Kempston.

Outdoor program could find home at Kengard

Take a Hike caters to students struggling with issues such as drug addiction, physical and mental abuse, poverty, criminal activity and depression. Its goals are to minimize barriers to learning, address personal issues and help students achieve a greater level of social and academic success.

These are achieved through a multi-faceted approach that includes meeting regularly with teachers to set and review goals, counselling sessions, community service and outdoor activities such as hiking trips.

The program is offered to students in Grades 10 to 12 in classes of 20 with teachers that teach all subjects.

“We’ve got a therapist, we’ve got an adventure-based learning specialist and a youth and family worker in each classroom and they work as a team to do self-based learning,” Kadian said.

No formal agreement exists at this time to bring the program to Merritt, but once the government funding is secured, Take a Hike will likely revisit pending applicants to see if they’re still interested, she told the Herald.

The program has been around for nearly two decades and hasn’t expanded in a few years, but in the past years has seen a number of communities express an interest in it, she said. Currently Take a Hike operates in Vancouver, Burnaby and Trail. Eighty per cent of kids who participate end up graduating.

Take a Hike would likely be offered to students in the district’s alternative education program at the Kengard Learning Centre — an open space high school that operates alternative learning programs such as its distance education program.

It may also be available to students at Merritt Secondary School.

Kempston would also like to see the school district offer the program to children in the community who are not in the school system as another way of learning.

“I really hope it would appeal to kids who have disengaged from education altogether,” she said.

Exactly how the program would be applied, however, is still to be determined.

“There’s not a lot of concrete info yet,” said McNiven, adding that the district remains interested in the program as it would be a great fit for its students.

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