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After acquiring funding for the first months of the semester, the PACE program at Wallaceburg’s high school is once again facing closure.

Ken O’Neil, coordinator for the Partnership, Achievement, Cultural Awareness, Engagement (PACE) program at Wallaceburg District Secondary School (WDSS) said that due to the lack of funding, the program will have to close its doors on March 31.

“We apologize for continually sending everyone this (message) about PACE closing, however, we have made some progress within the last few months and have connected with potential funding sources,” O’Neil said.

“We have had the opportunity to connect and meet with various Provincial ministries and local health partners, who have committed to assist PACE in acquiring long-term funding. These new partnerships are exploring potential funding options through their portfolios and have assigned resources to assist in the revision of the PACE funding proposal.”

The Ontario Brain Institute had stepped up to fund the program for two months back in January.

O’Neil said at this time, they are prepared to accept short-term funding for the program to carry them throuhg, until long-term funding can be acquired. T

“This will provide us with the opportunity and the time to continue to collaborate and negotiate with our new partnerships,” he said.

“We are asking for everyone’s assistance to help us find short-term funding to bridge the program until this is established. We have made many recent attempts and have been somewhat successful up until this point, however, we need the community’s help (for) short-term funding.”

O’Neil said the Enodmaagejig Social Services, Walpole Island Education Program and Walpole Island First Nation have been instrumental keeping PACE alive to this point.

“If they did not step up and take the lead on this project, PACE would be closed to our communities,” he said.

O’Neil said in years past they have struggled with making these connections to financially sustain PACE long-term because of inexperience and confidence.

“At this time, we have the experience and the partnerships to go above and beyond to make these new connections, to save this program for our communities,” he said.

“We possess a relentless attitude that we will establish funding for PACE and continue to offer these specialized supports to our community youth.”

Background

Organizers say the PACE program helps 40-60 kids annually.

The 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

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 support, organizers said.

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