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YMCA Alternative Suspension

Rapid intervention for students experiencing academic and behavioural difficulties.

School suspensions can be a setback for both the student and the school. Too often, suspended students end up feeling isolated and excluded from their school and social environment. This only serves to increase their academic disengagement. Lack of social and emotional skills are often at the root of the behaviours that result in suspension. The YMCA Alternative Suspension program uses this time of crisis, while students are away from school, to build social competencies and uncover the root causes of the suspension, to help participants harmoniously integrate back into school life.

What is the Alternative Suspension program?

The YMCA Alternative Suspension program is the only program of its kind. The proven model aims to reduce the number of repeat suspensions and decrease behaviours that can result in suspension. The program’s curriculum includes educational workshops, individual assistance, schoolwork, and complimentary group activities.

This program is designed to ensure rapid intervention for students experiencing academic and behavioural difficulties. We partner with schools to provide an alternative for students who would otherwise be sent home on suspension. Schools can refer students any day of the week, for three to five days.

Participants are ages 13 to 17, with particular emphasis on students in their first years of secondary school (grades 9 and 10). This is a crucial period in a young person’s development and coincides with challenges that can be brought on by the transition from elementary to high school.

The YMCA Alternative Suspension program has been in operation since 1999. It was introduced by the YMCAs of Quebec in response to a request from a high school in an inner-city neighbourhood of Montreal. The school was concerned with their suspended students were spending their time away from school on the streets and without supervision.

The YMCA Alternative Suspension program is based on clear criteria. The YMCA of Three Rivers operates the YMCA Alternative Suspension program in Waterloo Region in partnership with the Waterloo Catholic District School Board.

In response to the negative outcomes of school suspensions and with the literature to support its initial philosophy, YMCA Alternative Suspension was founded with the objective of reducing the number of students who experience repeated disciplinary measures. In doing so the program intends to help students improve their school experience and ultimately stay in school.

The program is designed as an out-of-school intervention model where bonds of trust are built between a student in crisis and a significant adult figure; the program youth worker. The objective with each participant is to understand their challenges and to empower them with the tools needed to build resilience, and prepare for a successful return to school. The program works on the issues the youth is experiencing through small group workshops, one-on-one meetings, and referrals to other community-based activities and services. There is also an important academic component; mornings in the program are dedicated to quiet supervised schoolwork.

Generously funded by:

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