SD 20 celebrates Take a Hike program’s success

"Last year (SD20) students in the West Kootenay Take A Hike program achieved 100 per cent graduation rates!"

School District No. 20 (Kootenay-Columbia) has a good reason to celebrate! Last year our students in the West Kootenay Take A Hike program achieved 100 per cent graduation rates! This is not only a victory for the School District, but a personal victory for the successful students who graduated from this amazing program.

Take a Hike Youth At Risk Foundation works in partnership with SD20 to provide this alternative education program that engages at-risk youth through a unique combination of adventure-based learning, academics, therapy and community involvement.

This program empowers district youth who are at-risk due to personal circumstances with the tools they need to forge their own path and achieve success in school and in their lives.

Not every student fits into the mainstream school system, some youth are struggling in a traditional high school setting failing to graduate from high school. In many cases, this is due to their circumstances, not their abilities.

Students in the Take a Hike program often struggle with issues that have inhibited their success such as abuse, addiction, mental health issues, hunger, poverty, or violence. The goals of the Take a Hike alternative education program are to minimize barriers to learning, address personal issues, and help students achieve a greater level of social and academic success.

At Kootenay Columbia Learning Center, the team behind Take a Hike includes a teacher, clinical therapist, youth and family worker, and adventure-based learning specialist. This dynamic team establishes the right conditions necessary for students to experience success and provides students the opportunity to graduate, rebuild relationships and develop life skills. The respectful, meaningful relationships that are developed among the staff and students are key to each participant’s success.

The unique combination of academics, adventure-based learning, therapy and community involvement are the pillars of this program’s success:

•Academics – Students are engaged with specialized learning modules providing a pathway to graduation. Learning is self-paced and students and teachers meet regularly to set and review academic goals.

•Adventure-Based Learning – Weekly day trips and multi-day expeditions enable the youth to encounter challenges outside the classroom. Hiking, rock climbing, canoeing, kayaking, snowshoeing, and first aid training provide opportunities for students to develop skills and build confidence. The outdoor trips challenge students to problem-solve and work as part of a team. They experience stress, but also learn how to deal with these issues and realize a sense of accomplishment and success. Students experience a marked improvement in physical fitness, and several have also quit smoking.

•Therapy – A full-time clinical therapist provides students with individual, group, and family counseling. Experiencing nature and physical challenges with the students on the outdoor expeditions provides a unique opportunity for the therapist to engage with students outside the classroom environment.

•Community Involvement – Each student in the program completes at least two hours of weekly volunteer service to the community. This teaches the youth that as a member of a larger community they have a responsibility to others and that their contributions are valuable.

SD20 and the Foundation share resources in the provision of the Take a Hike program. The school district provides the same level of staffing, resources and educational supplies provided to all students within SD20’s alternative education programs. The Foundation supplies the therapist and the adventure based learning resources. Additionally, the Foundation through the West Kootenay Take a Hike Foundation Community Engagement Committee, is active in many fund raising efforts. Recently, as a result of these efforts, the Committee was successful in acquiring a van for the program.

If you are a student that would like to apply to the Take a Hike program or a parent or counsellor looking for information, please contact Chris Gibson at 250.364.1275 Ext. 270, who will gladly answer your questions and provide you with application paperwork.

If you are a community member looking to make a positive difference in the lives of at-risk youth, please consider becoming an active member of the West Kootenay Take A Hike Foundation Community Engagement Committee or consider a donation to this worthy program. Contact Christy Anderson, Chair of the West Kootenay Community Engagement Committee at for more information.

Submitted by Teri Ferworn, Board Chair on behalf of SD20 (Kootenay-Columbia)

Community Comment is an opportunity for elected officials from our local municipalities to update citizens in the region on the events, plans and progress in their respective communities. Every Friday, the Trail Times will present, on a rotating basis, a submission from councils, school trustees or regional district directors.