Con­cep­tion Bay North stu­dents reach their Duke of Ed­in­burgh goals

The Compass - - NEWS - BY DANIELMACEACHERN dmaceach­ern@cb­n­com­pass.ca

As­cen­sion Col­le­giate’s spe­cial-needs stu­dents saw their hard work pay off last month as they made a trip to St. John’s to ac­cept their Duke of Ed­in­burgh awards.

Sonya Lee, the chal­leng­ing-needs teacher at the Bay Roberts school, said the pro­gram, de­signed for youths aged 14-22, en­cour­ages de­vel­op­ment in four ar­eas: skills, phys­i­cal fit­ness, com­mu­nity ser­vice and camp­ing.

Her 11 stu­dents take part in the COSTA as­pect of the pro­gram - Chal­leng­ing Our Stu­dents To Achieve - which fo­cuses on spe­cial-needs stu­dents, who take part in ac­tiv­i­ties around the school, in­clud­ing arts, phys­i­cal fit­ness, and cafe­te­ria and of­fice tasks.

“It gives the stu­dents some­thing to look for­ward to each year,” she said, point­ing out that there are three lev­els of achieve­ment: bronze, sil­ver and gold, with in­creas­ing re­quire­ments at each suc­ces­sive level. “I look at it as al­most equal to a high school grad­u­a­tion. Each year, there’s more re­quire­ments.”

Lee said a big thrill for the stu­dents is when they get to go in to St. John’s to re­ceive their awards from the premier.

“ That’s a joy for many,” she said. The stu­dents re­ceived their awards Dec. 11, 2009. “It’s a very pres­ti­gious cer­e­mony.... The premier, he is un­be­liev­able with th­ese chil­dren. A lot of times we see the premier in a very rigid role, where he’s the leader but you see a to­tally dif­fer­ent... he’s unreal. He’s so com­pas­sion­ate to­wards th­ese chil­dren. He’s not stand­off­ish. They run at him, they jump up in his arms, they’re hug­ging him and kiss­ing him, and he just em­braces them all.”

Lee said she’d rec­om­mend the pro­gram to any schools, es­pe­cially with spe­cial-needs units. “I’ve had sev­eral stu­dents go through the pro­gram. It just gives them a pur­pose. It gives me a pur­pose. And for the par­ents, a lot of th­ese chil­dren that are in spe­cial needs, the bot­tom line is that they’re not go­ing to ac­tu­ally achieve a high school grad­u­a­tion be­cause of their dis­abil­i­ties and lim­i­ta­tions, but for th­ese par­ents, for them to be able to go in and see them pre­sented with their awards, some­thing that they ac­com­plished, that means just as much to th­ese par­ents and the teach­ers and the stu­dents as high school (grad­u­a­tion).”

Trudy Carlisle, the ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the New­found­land chap­ter of the Duke of Ed­in­burgh awards, said the COSTA pro­gram started 12 years ago with one school in the prov­ince, and 14 schools now par­tic­i­pate, al­though stu­dents can par­tic­i­pate on their own even if their school doesn’t have a pro­gram. “ We’re al­ways looking ( for new schools),” she said. Carlisle said the premier’s pre­sent­ing the awards to the stu­dents is a tra­di­tion unique to New­found­land and Labrador.

“ We started that ini­tia­tive with Premier (Brian) Tobin, and all suc­ces­sive pre­miers, re­gard­less of po­lit­i­cal party, have al­ways been very sup­port­ive of this ini­tia­tive, and it’s kind of like a tra­di­tion now, that the premier presents the awards.

Last year As­cen­sion stu­dents went to a Tim Hor­tons camp in Tatamagouche, N.S., with the tab picked up by Tim Hor­tons and the Duke of Ed­in­burgh awards.

“It’s an awe­some ex­pe­ri­ence for some of th­ese chil­dren,” she said. “For some of them it’s the first time that they’ve ever been across the is­land, and for some it’s the first time that they’ve ever been out­side of New­found­land, and it just broad­ens their knowl­edge, be­cause some are very con­fined in their think­ing. They live in the Bay Roberts area, and that’s pretty much what they know. And when you give them this ex­pe­ri­ence, it’s just so worth­while.”

Jonathan Dawe, Jonathan Gushue and Laura Vokey achieved the bronze level; Christo­pher Bald­win, Mi­randa Brown, Calvin Gal­way and Paul Mil­ley earned sil­ver level recog­ni­tion; and Shane Daw­son and Bradley Rose achieved the gold level for As­cen­sion Col­le­giate. David Mur­ray of Carbonear Col­le­giate also earned his gold level.

Denise Pike/ The Com­pass

Jonathan Dawe, left, and his class­mate Shawn Daw­son put pa­pers through a shred­der at As­cen­sion Col­le­giate in March as part of the COSTA branch of the Duke of Ed­in­burgh awards.

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