A Seven Oaks School Division program is breathing a little easier now that, well, it has a little more room to breathe.
Wayfinders, a mentorship program that helps high school students in the division graduate outside of the normal school environment, is one of several division programs enjoying the new Adult Learning Centre at 950 Jefferson Ave.
With two classrooms to itself, the six-day-a-week program now has plenty of space for its students to stretch their legs and study, as opposed to their previously cramped strip-mall location at 660 Sheppard St.
The program began in order to reduce dropout rates in the area.
"Families in this community were having upwards of a 50% dropout rate in Grade 9," volunteer co-ordinator Awit Marcelino said.
"This program was built to hopefully offset that, and encourage higher graduation rates."
Support for the program has been good, as it has ballooned to about 250 students from its original class of 40, Marcelino said.
Not all of those 250 students show up to each class, but she said they tend to see between 70 and 80 per session. The new facility allows for some opportunities they didn’t previously enjoy.
"This is a lot better. We have two spaces. (One) is more for hanging out with your friends and doing homework. It can be a little louder. But the other one is meant to be for more hardcore, serious studying."
One of the new space’s most prominent features is its open-concept kitchen, which gives students a chance to hone their cooking skills. When The Times visited, students were busy cubing cheese, laying out platters of crackers, and preparing noodle dishes for their peers.
"With this kitchen, we can do a lot more things like, how do you make a healthy meal on a budget," Marcelino said.
"More teaching, more workshops."
A yoga class is also getting started.
Site co-ordinator Meghan Loewen-Cook said the new site will give them some room to "think creatively."
"It’s giving students an opportunity to get more involved, it’s just made everything more open."
The program pairs students with student/parent support workers who keep tabs on their progress and stay in touch with their families in order to sort out how to help those students best. Marcelino said the idea isn’t just to get kids a high school diploma, but to help them move on to post-secondary education.
Some students with the program, such as Nicholas Sosulski, have big plans in mind.
"It’s definitely been a great experience. They’ve helped me to know how to pursue what I want to be," he said of the program, adding he’s decided on either pharmacology or opthalmology as a career path.
Sosulski has also taken up the task of tutoring his peers in math and science.
"I know I like helping people," he said of his decision to help out.
Student Jocelyne Kolomyja has noticed an uptick in how many people show up since the move.
"It’s nice, it’s bigger. More people come," she said.
Kolomyja said since starting with Wayfinders about a year ago, she’s come to enjoy working with the staff and her peers.
"I’ve made a lot of friends coming here," she said.
"There’s more activities, more options."