Youth get second chance at high school

Ontario expands program to help students earn diploma

Representatives from the provincial government announced a new plan to expand the Ontario Public Service Learn and Work Pilot Program, an educational initiative for youth ages 16 to 19 who did not earn or are having trouble earning their high school diploma based on lack of credits.

Government Services Minister Gerry Phillips announced the plan on Jan. 16, 2007 at the Centennial College Reference and Conference Centre Atrium. He was the first to speak about the credit recovery program, which has started its second year.

“The program was so successful [in 2005-2006] that we were convinced that we had to expand it,” Phillips said.

Children and Youth Services Minister Mary Anne Chambers and Education Minister Kathleen Wynne were also there.  Wynne spoke of the government’s goal to help all students across Ontario.

“We’re trying to change the vision of education so that we truly create a system that doesn’t allow anybody to fall through the cracks,” said Wynne, who has only been the education minister for four months but has already developed a passion for this program.

Expanding OPS

Since the launch of the OPS Program in January 2006, academic achievements have improved, including a three per cent increase in high school graduation rates across Ontario. The Ministry of Government Services says changes made under the expansion include:

  • Extending the length of the program from 18 weeks to year-round
  • Adding three new schools that will deliver the program: Father Henry Carr Catholic Secondary School, J.L. Forster Secondary School in Windsor, and St. Pius X Catholic Secondary School in Ottawa
  • Increasing the number of credits students can earn from five to 10
  • Giving students co-op and summer work placements

Post-secondary education at Centennial

“Centennial College has established many creative ways of engaging students and allowing mature students to have the opportunity to pursue post-secondary education…through transitional type programs,” Chambers said.

The Transitions to College Program gives graduating students a chance to earn both high school credits and college credits. Centennial College is the only college delivering this program.

Starting in February 2007, 17 students from R.H. King Academy will take high school courses everyday as well as college courses twice a week at Centennial College’s Centre for Creative Communications.  There, students will earn a general education credit that is transferable when they apply to college or university after graduation.

“This is a can-do initiative,” Wynne said. “We’re laying out the groundwork for better relationships and for more students to be thinking about post-secondary [education].

Nicole Antoine, 16, is one of the success stories of the OPS Transitions to College Program. Antoine dropped out of school in Grade 9 and decided not long after that she would like to make up for her mistakes.  Now she is a graduating student taking both high school and college courses.

“I feel that this has given me more time to prepare so that when it is time for me to go to university, I’ll be one step ahead of everybody,” said Antoine, who hopes to study Journalism at Ryerson University one day.

Dr. Anne Seymour was one of the first to witness the success of OPS. Seymour is the principal of Lester B. Pearson Collegiate Institute, the school that launched OPS two years ago. She watched many of her own students achieve great things.

“The success lies in making kids realize that they can keep going and that they don’t need to stop,” said Seymour, who also agrees that success is not only determined by academic achievements, but by the students’ self-confidence as well.

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