I have been working on a project for the Sequoia Learning Centre which is an extension of Mt. Sentinel School District 8 Kootenay Lake in the Slocan Valley. This school was developed by Janis Chernenkoff with much support from the school district as well as the community. After teaching at Brent Kennedy Elementary for almost 20 years, she became inspired by the number of at-risk students who were eager for the opportunity to complete their education at their own pace.
“Putting time and energy into them and then watching them drop out was too difficult for me and I really wanted to catch them before they gave up completely.” Janis said.
So she built Sequoia.
I came to Sequoia in January 2013 as a practicum placement for the Social Service Worker program through Selkirk College. At first I found the idea of “troubled teenage boys” unpredictable and uncertain. As with most things I was proven wrong and these boys soon won over my confidence and trust with their genuine desire to succeed no matter what obstacles they were facing. The list of obstacles was long and heartbreaking. I was very moved when Janis warned me about how for many of the students Christmas break was not like most other teens in the area and generally not a happy occasion. This realization hit me hard and I became aware of how important this school was going to be to these boys and how the life skills they were learning from her would impact them for the rest of their life.
One of the projects I have taken on here at Sequoia is what I like to call “Project Clean Clothes”. Many of the students would greatly benefit from having access to a washer and dryer. Janis’s goal was to attempt to have them experience clean clothes for job interviews. Really building a sense of responsibility by making sure that their appearance was taken into consideration as they venture out in this world as our upcoming adult population. This is something that many of us would not even consider as we take our own clean clothes for granted. I felt it was an excellent idea and I soon realized that there was a lot more these appliances could and would do for this school.
We spent some time cross country skiing. Again, lack of decent equipment was made up for with enthusiasm from the students. Even though we had an excellent time playing on the rails to trails, we had to send the students home with soaking wet coats, mitts and pants. I would have loved to be able to dry their coats and send them home warm. I watched as Janis would gather the laundry that accumulated throughout the day from the kitchen and the clothing that had been donated to launder it in the evening around her own family obligations. With these actions I began to comprehend her dedication to these students and felt the whole world should know.
So I got on the phone and started to call.
Within two weeks I had secured support from all of the local media in the area, newspapers, radio and then I aimed big and called Global TV. Katja in the research department suggested that a story with a real Valentines feel could be a great way to share some “GOOD” news. Possible headline: Local communities pull together to support those people that need it the most, sharing the love.
So here is the opportunity for a local business to give a little and make an enormous difference. Really to let the world know just how important our future generations are to them and supporting those people that are dedicating their lives to making a real difference. This in turn will be acknowledged and highlighted by the true purpose though our caring media community.
So my heartfelt thanks to everyone that made “Project Clean Clothes” a complete success.
Barry Marsh from Nelson Sears for the donation of this Kenmore Washer and Dryer!
Much Love from Barry as he saw a need here in our community and stepped up to the plate to meet it.
Jan at the Valley Voice
Patty with the Pennywise
Karen and the Nelson Star
Jim of Castlegar News
Darren and the team at Mountain FM
Elizabeth and EZ life of EZ Rock
and Katja and Mike with the research team for Global TV.
The next project for me in this school is developing an online social media for Sequoia by updating their website as well as creating the Facebook page.
Janis can use this to connect with the community in regard to possible volunteer positions, furniture and clothing donations. I’d love to see a closet full of dress clothes that they could access to wear to a job interview and have an opportunity to allow their dedication and enthusiasm to shine through clothes that speak volumes.
This project has truly been a real challenge for me to reach out into the community and a complete joy to have been gifted such beautiful people to work with.
In Love and Service,