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News: Friday, February 24th, 2012

New Alternative Suspension Program launched

The Abbotsford School District, City of Abbotsford and YMCA of Greater Vancouver officially launched the Alternative Suspension Service site at the Abbotsford Recreation Centre today. The Alternative Suspension (‘AS’) program allows temporarily suspended secondary school students—or those on the verge of being suspended—with the opportunity to transform their time away from the classroom into a positive experience.

The new site acts as a district-wide ‘in-school’ suspension service to help prevent students from dropping out of school. The program provides early intervention and prevention by focusing on students’ personal development and offering them the tools they need to succeed. Between January 2011 and February, 2012, some 185 students from seven secondary schools in Abbotsford have been referred to the program.
“Students tell us that the experience has changed how they see themselves in school,” says John Sutherland, Chair of the Abbotsford Board of Education. “Prior to joining the program, these students didn’t think they could finish, but after completing their work and getting caught up on late assignments they learned they could. Some have told us that they didn’t care about school before and now they are more motivated and are working harder at their studies,” says Sutherland. “That’s quite an endorsement for the effectiveness of the program, especially over regular out-of-school suspensions. Our Board has been pleased with the program, the results and the partnership.”
“All young people benefit from extra support by role models who believe in them and are willing to take the time to help them succeed,” says Craig Sheather, Vice President of Community Programs at the YMCA of Greater Vancouver. “That’s what this program is all about and we are thrilled to be working with the Abbotsford School District and the City of Abbotsford to deliver this program and help these young people reach their full potential.”
“Programs like these are so important to students in our community,” says Mayor Bruce Banman. “This program will ensure students who are struggling with their studies get the support they need and it will give youths the opportunity to make better choices about their future.”
Program staff communicate regularly with parents as youth progress in the program. Key activities of the program include:
  • Prevention and interventions sessions for 3-15 day periods
  • One-on-one sessions and group workshops aimed at reducing identified risk factors
  • Academic support under the direction of the school to keep the student up to date with school work
  • Recreational activities to build relationships and social skills
  • School reintegration support to help students go back to school following suspension
The YMCA Alternative Suspension™ program began in Montreal in 1999. Through funding by the National Crime Prevention Centre and Public Safety Canada, the program has expanded to more than 30 communities across Canada. The Abbotsford service site is made possible with financial contributions from NCPC, the Abbotsford School District and the YMCA of Greater Vancouver. The City of Abbotsford, through the Parks, Recreation and Culture Department, plays a key role by providing the program space at the Abbotsford Recreational Centre (ARC).
Photo: (L-to-R) Cutting the ribbon at official launch: Shari West,  Alternative Suspension Program Manager; John Sutherland, Chair, Board of Education; Craig Sheather, Vice President of Community Programs, YMCA of Greater Vancouver; Acting Mayor (Councillor) Patti Ross; Teresa Weatherby – Primary Youth Worker, Alternative Suspension program  

About the Abbotsford School District

The District services a wide and dispersed audience within the city of Abbotsford. The District’s 46 schools are attended by approximately 19,000 students at 30 elementary schools, 8 middle schools, one combined middle-secondary school, and 7 secondary schools. In addition the district has a virtual school, an Aboriginal Education Centre, and offers continuing education courses and an annual summer school.

About the YMCA of Greater Vancouver

The YMCA is a powerful association of men, women and children of all ages and abilities joined together by a shared commitment: to strengthen community. They accomplish this goal by nurturing the potential of children and youth, promoting healthy lifestyles, fostering social responsibility and delivering lasting personal and social change. In 2010 alone, the YMCA helped 105,047 children, youth, adults, families and seniors become stronger through life-enhancing programs and services. The YMCA also delivers the Alternate Suspension Program in Chilliwack with a new Surrey site launching this September.
For further information or to schedule an interview, please contact:
shari.west [at] (Shari West)
Alternative Suspension Program Manager
YMCA of Greater Vancouver
Phone: 604.792.3371, ext. 2405 
dave_stephen [at] (Dave Stephen)
Manager, Communications
Abbotsford School District
Phone: 604.859.4891, ext. 1206

Media Contact:

ASD Admin, Website Administrator
Phone: 604 555-1234 ext 567