TONI Truthwaite had trouble getting up for school and had little interest in her classes -- now she wants to go to university and become a nurse or midwife.
The Grade 11 student at Children of the Earth High School is one of the dozens of reasons that the inner city, aboriginal high school has won a national award for innovative teaching and learning.
Children of the Earth principal Lorne Belmore finds himself with a lot of kids like Truthwaite these days -- they're taking pre-calculus and physics, subjects they would likely have avoided, and setting their sights on health care careers they previously would not have considered, said Belmore.
Wednesday, Belmore and a couple dozen of his students, some dressed in hospital scrubs, received the Canadian Education Association's Ken Spencer Award for Innovative Teaching and Learning.
It's the third year for a groundbreaking program that puts COTE students into the Pan Am Clinic as interns, getting front-line, hands-on experience and exposure to the full range of health-care careers.
"It demystifies medicine for our students. They too can have a career in any number of medical fields," Belmore said.
"It is making effective change in inner city aboriginal students' lives.
"It's an opportunity we haven't seen anywhere in the country," he said.
Belmore said there are 10 Grade 11 students and a dozen Grade 10 students in the four-year program. About 70 Grade 9 students are being considered for spots.
Like classmate Truthwaite, Brandan Campbell said the program inspired him to start caring about school and look to a future in health care.
"This is a chance of a lifetime," Campbell said. "I want to be a paramedic."
CEA chief executive officer Penny Milton said her foundation was looking for innovative ideas that have shown they can work.
"Students are not asking that school work be easy -- they're asking that learning be relevant... to their families and themselves," Milton said.
Advanced Education Minister Diane McGifford announced $134,000 in additional funding for the program, which Belmore said would allow the school to add a teacher to mentor the students, and to provide academic supports.
When she arrived at the ceremony at Pan Am Clinic, McGifford said, "I spoke to a young woman who wants to be an oncologist -- that's exactly what we want to achieve."