By Marianne Curtis
A program offered to Grade nine students in the Steinbach area is benefiting under privileged students in the community.
The Grade 9 alternative program has run for many years out of the SRSS. This program opens its doors to some of the neediest kids in the Hanover School Division. Students participating in the program either live in poverty, have anger issues, are foster kids, kids with mental health issues, and often kids who just need some extra care.
According to Steinbach Regional Secondary School teacher Jessica Brautigan the program is seeing many successes.
“In this program we design individualized programming for students, help to connect them with community services, and work one-on-one with them when they are struggling,” stated Brautigan. “We try to listen with compassion to their stories, try to understand their world, and offer them a chance for renewal; a clean slate.”
To advance the goals of the program, a creative arts unit was added this year.
“As a class we take some time once a week to work on creative art projects. Some of the projects we have explored are self portraits, neo-dada junk-art sculptures, cave painting, clay-animation, soap carving, surrealist clay sculptures, painting, and
still-life drawing,” explained Brautigan.
When the students gather like this at the beginning of class the students are often nervous. “This is dumb, I suck at art,” they might say. However as the class progresses, they relax, focus on their work, smile, and begin to share their stories.
“Often these are stories of violence, fear, and loneliness. Sometimes they are stories of their hopes for the future, family traditions, fun vacations, and exciting weekends to come,” added Brautigan. “I have learned so much from this art “experiment”. Most astonishingly, when you take a group of “rough kids”, who carry more labels than a Campbell’s soup can, and create a safe place free of judgment where they can be themselves, they soften, they create, and they shine.”
Brautigan added that while the program presents numerous challenges, she enjoys the many untold rewards based in the many success stories that come out of the classroom.