The Integrated School Support Project and Patrick Airlie School
“This place used to just be a building in the community; now it is a resource. We are now a hand of friendship to our community. It’s the hand reaching out to the ones that need it the most.”
Every day, Patrick Airlie School principals Valerie Murphy and Jean Zoller greet the kids often described as “high needs.” They are the ones that, if they come to school at all, are without breakfast, lacking proper hygiene and, often suffering through serious problems at home. These kids are the ones that need a lot of help to get through a day, let alone a year of school.
To meet these significant needs, the Integrated School Support Project (ISSP) was created as a branch of the Calgary Police Service’s Stay Strong, Stay Safe program. This multi-faceted project gives Patrick Airlie students access to a full-time registered psychologist and a full-time physical education specialist, along with police officers that come to the school twice a week to play with the kids and social workers that work with specific students. The Integrated School Support Project offers the students’ parents helpful resources. For example, during parent-teacher interviews a dentist bus comes to the school to care for the parents’ dental needs and, this past Christmas, the school gave 65 Christmas hampers to 65 families. That totaled half of the surrounding community.
YMCA Calgary proudly supports the Integrated School Support Project and is an integral contributor by operating the afterschool program that is changing the experience of students who really need it. Kids’ Hub, the YMCA-operated after school program partnered with the Calgary Public Library, develops students emotionally, academically and physically in a safe environment. The safety of students is the number one priority of this program and that focus is seen by these young people. Patrick Airlie student Cierra sums up her thoughts beautifully: “We want our community to be a safe place. We want people to know each other. My favorite part about this program is knowing that you are safe and that you have friends.”
This program springs into action when the final bell rings, Monday through Friday, giving students’ parents a needed chance to better provide for their family. This extra time gives struggling parents the opportunity to take on full-time work or extra work and for some families, that is a total game changer, according to assistant principal Jean Zoller.
This Y-supported project is jam-packed with fun programs and fun program leaders from YMCA Calgary. The programs and people inject positivity into these kids’ challenging lives. Patrick Airlie student Tony says, “I like playing outside and learning in the library. This school is awesome! Fraser (YMCA Calgary staff member) calls me Funky Tony! I really like that!” Tony’s classmate and friend, Logan, chimes in: “Logi Bear! That’s my nickname at Kids’ Hub! I like playing fun games with the program leaders too! Math games are my favorite.”
Kids’ Hub also ensures that students’ basic needs are covered. For some of Patrick Airlie’s students, coming to school with absolutely no food is a reality. Healthy snacks are sourced and provided through the ISSP, giving students access to nutritious and consistent food which may not always be available at home. Zoller says this access to healthy meals and snacks during the school day and at Kids’ Hub has completely changed the atmosphere of the school as kids can focus on schoolwork.
“The people we have here help our students develop the social skills and friendship skills that they need to have a positive outcome to the year and for some of these kids, that is huge. This is being reinforced in school and the after school programs. These skills are going home and now parents are learning these skills too. This place used to just be a building in the community; now it is a resource. We are now a hand of friendship to our community. It’s the hand reaching out to the ones that need it the most.” Together, the ISSP and YMCA Calgary give every student in Patrick Airlie School a better chance to succeed in the face of adversity.