Finding ways to give

April 24, 2012
Kim Dewar, ATA News Staff

“W.H Cushing Workplace School. We make downtown vibrant!”

School–Community Relations Awards announced

A one-of-a-kind school in the heart of Calgary and a Catholic school in Sherwood Park that spearheaded a life-changing program are the 2011/12 award of excellence winners in the Alberta Teachers’ Association’s (ATA) School–Community Relations Awards school category.

W. H. Cushing Workplace School, Calgary

The first of its kind in Canada, W. H. Cushing Workplace School was established in 1995 as a public school in Calgary’s downtown core. The school links K–3 students’ learning environment to their parents’ work environment and to downtown resources. The school’s motto, “Linking the worlds of work and school,” focuses on creating a positive learning setting with opportunities to contribute to the community in meaningful ways.

W. H. Cushing Workplace School provides a unique and enriching experience for students by participating annually in events such as decorating kites for Olympic Plaza at the Calgary International Children’s Festival; creating art banners for the CTrain platforms as part of the Mayor’s Environmental Expo; and carolling in December at the Calgary Public Library and Heritage Park. ­Additionally, students participate in various programs for the community that develop social responsibility, such as growing vegetables for the Mustard Seed; contributing to the “Warm Feet for the Street” program, which provides socks and toiletries to Calgarians in need; participating in the Terry Fox Run; donating to “Giving from the Heart,” which provides donations to the veterans’ food bank; and creating “Valentines for Veterans.”

Calgary’s community members praised the school’s contribution to the city’s downtown. The Calgary Public Library said, “Students find many ways to give back to the library, such as through choir performances every year at Christmas time for [library] customers. They are a valuable asset … and will surely become lifelong readers and ­library users.” The Calgary Downtown Association said, “These children bring an added vitality and have a very positive impact on the downtown area through their various activities. They are a valuable asset and will be our future downtown champions.”

Archbishop Jordan Catholic High School, Sherwood Park

Last September, under the guidance of Tanya Thiessen, ­assistant principal at Archbishop Jordan Catholic High School, in Sherwood Park, the school embarked on Helping Hampers, in partnership with Geomeer, a charitable organization.

Students at Archbishop Jordan Catholic High School, Sherwood Park, wrap Christmas hampers for local families.

Working with the local Catholic parish, Our Lady of Perpetual Help, the goal of Helping Hampers was to sustain three local families over a three-to six-month period, including Christmas, when toys and gifts were also provided. Students enrolled in the school’s leadership courses set up collection sites and organized hampers. It took the school 14 days to collect more than 5,000 items and 120 Christmas gifts—and 8 hours to wrap everything. So much was collected that three trucks were needed to deliver the goods to the parish, where volunteers organized items for distribution.

Working with the local Catholic parish, Our Lady of Perpetual Help, the goal of Helping Hampers was to sustain three local families over a three-to six-month period, including Christmas, when toys and gifts were also provided. Students enrolled in the school’s leadership courses set up collection sites and organized hampers. It took the school 14 days to collect more than 5,000 items and 120 Christmas gifts—and 8 hours to wrap everything. So much was collected that three trucks were needed to deliver the goods to the parish, where volunteers organized items for distribution.

Dean Sarnecki, principal of Archbishop Jordan, said that within a week, the entire school community was involved, including parents and nonschool community members who heard about the project and wanted to help. “I am extremely proud of our students and our staff and the community in their kindness and charity in this project. Programs and activities like this demonstrate our community involvement and model for our students our role as members of a greater community.”

The School–Community ­Relations Awards competition is sponsored ­annually by the ATA to recognize excellence in public relations.