Sunday, February 23, 2020

PACE secures funding for two months at WDSS

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The PACE program at Wallaceburg’s high school has acquired funding for two months, and a long-term sustainable plan is in the works.

Organizers with the Partnership, Achievement, Cultural Awareness, Engagement (PACE) program at Wallaceburg District Secondary School (WDSS) said the Ontario Brain Institute has stepped up to fund the program for two months.

“PACE is alive for two more months, thanks to the Ontario Brain Institute,” PACE officials said in a message to the Sydenham Current.

“This generous donation was possible because of the support from many caring community members and partners.”

While the donation gives the program a two month reprieve, a more long term solution is in the works.

“At this time, we are in discussions with several provincial ministries, to determine if PACE fits into one or more funding envelopes,” PACE officials said.

“This is a new endeavour for PACE, as we have not explored this avenue in the past. This is very exciting because this may be the long term sustainable funding that we have been searching for. We still have a long road ahead of us and we will still require the support from our community and partners. We appreciate everyone who has went above and beyond to support our efforts to keep this much needed program open and available to our youth and their families.”

The program had been slated to shut down after January 31.

Cherrie Lalonde, a support worker with the program, said the program helps 40-60 kids annually.

“We help them with any kind of difficulties they might have,” she said. “It may be at home, it may be with school, we help with medical stuff, crisis intervention… we’ve helped with housing, helping them find a place to stay. Anything to help get kids through the school year.”

Lalonde added: “We are still in contact with kids from the program. I still get phone calls from students from the program from four of five years ago. So we did make an impact. We’ve had some students say they wouldn’t even be here if it wasn’t for this program.”

Lalonde said the PACE program does a lot of referrals, and they work with different organizations such as:

– Counselling services

– Addiction services

– Social services

– Diversion programs

– Native support services

– Treatment centres

– Health care professionals

– Mental health services

Ken O’Neil, the coordinator of the program, said earlier this month the program had made a huge impact in its 11 years.

“Over these years, the program has supported over 600 students, has helped reduce the suspension rate by over 300%, has helped increase the overall school’s retention rate by approximately 4% or 5% each year and has linked more than 500 students to school and community supports,” he said.

“The PACE program has had great successes over the past 11 years because of the wrap around approach, assessing students needs, planning interventions and linking students with amazing school and community supports to help them reach their full potential. Our students have had amazing successes due to these supports that they receive from the program, school staff and community.”

O’Neil said WDSS has not experienced a student suicide during this time.

“This outcome can be contributed to the amazing internal supports and the supports linked to our school,” he said.

In 2006, WDSS and the Lambton-Kent District School Board received grants from the Ministry of Education to develop and implement a support program that addresses and meets the needs of at-risk students.

“This is how PACE originated, but unfortunately this was only start up funding for the first two to three years,” said O’Neil.

“For the last seven years, the core responsibility for acquiring funding for the program was placed on the PACE program coordinator. In July of 2016, Walpole Island Social Services, LKDSB and the ‘Way Out’ counselling services signed a five year collaborative agreement, in attempt to reach out to other funding sources. Walpole Island Social Services has committed to be the central partner/applicant for future funding opportunities.”

O’Neil added: “I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has supported the program and who believed in our approach. Also, thanks to all to our financial contributors (Ontario Trillium Foundation, Enbridge, Walpole Island Education Program, Walpole Island Social Services, Lambton Kent District School Board, other community partners) over the years, who have made many efforts to sustain the program for our youth.”

Watch for more on this story.

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