A group of local students and their families started their holiday celebrations early at the Kootenay Columbia Learning Centre (KCLC) Tuesday.
The annual holiday celebration at KCLC features a homecooked Christmas meal, a few small gifts for each student and time for relaxing and enjoying each other’s company.
Students that are new to the school this year also get a special gift. Each year the Brilliant Cultural Society makes and donates quilts for those that are new to the program.
The learning centre is an alternative school for students in the Castlegar area with an enrolment of about 30 this year.
“They are just students that need a different way to get their education done,” explained KCLC principal Denise Flick.
“This event would not happen without the efforts and the planning of our two child and youth care workers — Marla Gonzalez-Plasencia and Lori McCarthy,” said Flick. “It is a labour of love.”
Flick says they try to keep the atmosphere of the school welcoming and supportive.
“The students become like family, complete with challenges and support.”
“Our goal is to get them in the door and get them to feel like there is a place here where they belong,” said Flick. “Our second goal is to get them out in the community volunteering and engaging in activities.”
The annual event is a way for the community to show its support as numerous local businesses and organizations contribute.
The City of Castlegar also sponsors the event and councillor Maria McFadden was on hand to talk to the students.
“We are here as a city to support them, and whatever we can do to back them and help them to get to their goals, we will do that,” said McFadden, at the event.
Flick hopes to carry the sense of community and family that she is fostering in her school over into the new year and into her student’s lives.
“We want everyone to know what amazing kids we have here,” added Flick. “Yes, they may have had more things come their way than we would wish. But if we can get them through school, if we can get them to attach to us and start to believe in themselves, those struggles turn into great gifts later in life.”