Tupper Alternative Program

Tupper Alternative Program

There’s nothing extravagant about what the alternative school program at Vancouver’s Sir Charles Tupper Secondary needs from the community.

Food, clothing and bus tickets.

Some students don’t have enough to eat at home, some don’t have coats just hoodies for all weathers, and some skip school because it’s too far to walk or skateboard in the rain.

The school’s youth and family worker Jennifer Eayrs says these are the main reasons for the school’s request for $15,000 from The Vancouver Sun’s Adopt-A-School (AAS) campaign.

The money will pay for breakfast, lunch and snacks for the 18 teenagers enrolled in TAP (Tupper Alternative Program), kitchen equipment needed to prepare the food, some clothes and emergency bus fares for when the weather is bad.

“We have one student who lives at 67th and Fraser (the school is at 23rd and Main) and his only method of transportation is his skateboard so his attendance is shoddy,” said Eayrs.

TAP is designed for students struggling in the regular school system.  It provides them with smaller classes and emotional and academic support until they are ready to be reintegrated into Grade 10, said vice principal Jagruti Desai.

“For most of our students this happens,” she said.

“We create a safe, nurturing environment where they can flourish. For them it’s their home.”

A number of the class — who are between the ages of 13 and 14 — are living in poverty or in government care.

Some of the money will bring in inspirational speakers for their girl’s and boy’s groups and pay entrance fees on class field trips to the planetarium or aquarium which most of them couldn’t afford.

Their teacher gets $600 a year in classroom funds which is eaten up buying school supplies and teaching tools, said Eayrs.

“There’s not a lot left over for field trips. Yet they need the experiences to enhance their lives and support their learning.”

Having bus fare available would have an immediate effect on the program as now students will not only be able to get to school but can go on field trips and make after-school appointments.

“Some kids have appointments after school and I try and drive them but that’s not always  possible,” said Eayrs. “This will be really helpful.”

AAS took their request  to xxx, a foundation, administered by Ken xxxx and Philip xxx in conjunction with the Vancouver Foundation that has helped Tupper Secondary for a number of years. It has paid for meals for impoverished students as well as the school’s Charlie’s Closet program which supplies clothes for children needing help.

Ken xxx said the foundation would be prepared to match other donations to Tupper up to the full amount of $15,000.

“If we do that and reach our target AAS we will have enough to help another school,” he said.

“It’s important to give students all the help we can.  We’re glad to be able to do this. There’s a lot of financial inequity in society and unfortunately it’s often the children who suffer.”

Eayrs asked a small group of her students if anyone would like to say something to those trying to help them.

“Yes,” said a girl. “I’d like to thank them for giving us money for food.”

By Gerry Bellett (gbellett@gmail.com)

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