CORNWALL, Ontario – A group of employees within the Social and Housing Services Department at city hall has been recognized by a provincial organization for their innovative approach to helping local youth in need.
The Specialized Youth Worker Team of Danielle Dube, Melanie Desnoyers, Jamie Tyrell and Jocelynne Menard received a Local Municipal Champions Award at a conference in Chatham-Kent last week.
The award – presented by the Ontario Municipal Social Services Association (OMSSA) – recognizes the team’s work in helping young parents and at-risk youth obtain their high school diploma and move on to employment or post-secondary education, thus breaking the cycle of reliance on social assistance.
Over the past three years, the team members have helped 160 teens and young adults obtain their high school diploma by monitoring attendance and removing barriers that stood in the way. Through an interactive, hands-on approach, the staff members developed relationships with the students and supported them along the way. This included proactively dealing with student concerns and regularly following up with students.
In some cases, the students have become first generation high school graduates.
“The great work performed by this team is contributing to brighter futures for many young residents in our community,” said Debora Daigle, Manager of Social and Housing Services.
Of those graduates, an estimated 85 per cent have either gone directly into the work force, have registered or are attending post-secondary school or have returned to high school for a victory lap.
The team’s success with students and young adults has been realized through three different programs that are provided in collaboration with numerous community agencies and local schools. The first, Learning Earning and Parenting (or LEAP), provides assistance to parents aged 16-25 while they continue on the path to completing their high school diploma or equivalent. This year, 14 LEAP participants are set to receive their high school diploma.
A second program, Teaching and Learning with your Children (or TLC), is designed for mothers aged 16-25 and young children. Through the program, the mother and child participate in play group style activities in the morning, while child care is provided in the afternoon so the mothers can work on earning high school credits.
Last but not least, there is the School Champions program which sees workers meeting with clients at school to monitor their attendance as they work towards obtaining their high school diploma. A pilot program was adopted at St. Matthew’s Catholic Secondary School in 2012-13, and School Champions has since been initiated in six local schools.
“It is extremely rewarding for our team members to see the positive strides we are making with these young people,” said Jocelynne Menard, Program Supervisor. “The success of our approach in Cornwall has resulted in it being used a model for other communities in the province.”