Fredericton needs more alternative education programs, says a St. Thomas University social action group. Only one such program exists today, and has a wait list that can stretch a hundred or more applicants long at times, leading some people to back out after a year or more out of the school system.
The group of six STU social work students interviewed educators, students and administrators at the Enterprise Centre, which offers high school-equivalent diplomas, as well as at a rehabilitation centre and a boys and girls club to prepare a report for education minister Serge Rousselle and local MLAs.
“We’re looking for more resources for educators to meet the needs of the students that are falling through the cracks,” said Heidi Fraser, a member of the social action group from Kentville, N.S.
Andrew Grattan, 21, dropped out of high school in Grade 9 but was caught long before he could hit rock-bottom. He simply didn’t like going to school. He didn’t see value in much of what he was being taught.
A few years later, he was 19 and figured out he wanted a career doing something he enjoyed, and feared he may have missed his chance.
“I just worked instead,” he said. “I pretty much just did drugs and partied.”
Grattan said he is now studying travel and hospitality at Oulton College in Moncton thanks to the Enterprise Program, which allowed him to get his diploma in half a year while working shorter days at times that suited his work schedule.
Citing a 2008 report by the Canadian Council on Learning, the STU group said each high school dropout costs Canadians over $19,000 in things like social assistance, employment insurance, and lost spending.
Last school year, 113 people dropped out of Fredericton high schools. Using the 2008 figure, these dropouts would cost Canadians an estimated $2.2 million.
Instead of costing the government money, Grattan probably saved them some. He worked after dropping out, expedited his high school education, and now wants to become a travel agent.
Without the Enterprise program, Grattan said he would probably still be working at the supermarket in Fredericton.
Groupmember Amber DeLorey interviewed students at an addiction centre.
“What really got to me… was when they finish their treatment they’re thrown back into the school system. So hearing them say, ‘If I come back and go to a regular high school, I won’t stay sober,’ that’s heartbreaking for me because the wait list to get on to Enterprise is so long.”
A previous version of this story paraphrased group member Amber DeLorey as saying if there were more alternative education programs, there would be less addicts, or at least they would be better educated. What she said was if there were more available alternative education programs, youth who go through drug rehabilitation would be less prone to relapse upon return to the public school system
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