Into the Classroom
“What do you think identity means?” asks Jaime Chetwynd to a group of attentive sixth grade students at Sacred Heart School in Moose Jaw.
Hands immediately spring into the air and she jots down each one of the responses on the board. Personality, hobbies, and interests are a couple of the examples the group comes up with.
The collective attention of the group at Sacred Heart is glued to Chetwynd as she talks about identity and what it means to each individual person. As part of an exercise, students write down something that others may not know about them. The identity tidbit is then shared with the rest of the class. The exercise brings about much laughter, but also much realization that people can be more than their outer layer.
“Sometimes you don’t realize something about someone else, but everyone is unique,” explains Jaime to the class.
Her identity lesson is just one of the plans in her back pocket as she travels to eight schools in the Holy Trinity Catholic School and Prairie South School Divisions this fall. Going beyond the day-to-day curriculum, the YMCA youth worker specializes in self-esteem, belonging and identity as a subject matter.
“I’m usually in their health classes teaching around different issues that can be root causes for not attending.” says Chetwynd.
Making a Difference
On any given day, teachers have a large curriculum to maintain and 30-some students to teach all at once. It can be difficult to provide one-on-one attention to the students who don’t work well in large groups. That’s where Chetwynd and her team come in.
The YMCA of Moose Jaw introduced a new program in 2015 that focuses on the intervention and engagement of students on a more individual level. The Steps 4 Success, Primary Intervention Program runs in elementary and high schools throughout the Holy Trinity Catholic School and Prairie South School Divisions.
The end goal is to increase graduation rates and lower dropout rates by providing students with resiliency skills, support, and resources to decrease their barriers.
“Our youth workers support schools and deliver these specialized workshops. They’re based on small groups and specialized classroom work,” says Jenn Angus, Manager of Funds Development and Community Outreach.
The team is constantly modifying to fit the unique needs of the students they work with. Sometimes Chetwynd works with the entire class but that’s just a piece of what she and her partner Jill Ross can do. They also offer small group workshops.
“In three meetings of not even knowing me, students are already open to talk about things that they’re uncomfortable with. They’re getting the support and they know that they may be lacking in some areas so they feel comfortable to build trust relationships,” says Ross.
SaskPower has partnered with the YMCA Moose Jaw to fund their intervention program, which aligns to our community investment policy. SaskPower support education programs that change behaviours and attitudes so customers stay safe around electricity, conserve power and more of today’s youth want to work at SaskPower.
In the second year of the program, the YMCA youth workers are starting to see a difference. Chetwynd and her team are starting to see an increase in engagement in the students.
“It’s really fluid right now,” says Jamie. “We want to give the teachers the support they need so if the programming has to change then we make it fit for what they need."
Passion for the Job
Its clear Chetwynd has a passion for her job as she visits each student one by one during her time in the classroom. When the bell rings for recess, there are groans from the students and a collective ‘Bye Jaime!’ from the entire class.
Chetwynd smiles down the hall as she prepares herself for the next grade and the next lesson.
“If I can be a support for them one day a week, then that’s a little less they’re carrying with them. That’s why I do what I do,” says Chetwynd.