Power Start aims to help children become successful in school and in life by getting them to school on time, safely, well-fed and supported.
The Power Start Program was developed in response to a need brought forward from a local elementary school principal to the Boys and Girls Club of Kamloops. The staff at the school were concerned because they had a number of children that were chronically late or absent, and they hoped that with some support these children would have more success in school. One of the key components to the program is providing safe and reliable transportation to school in the morning. Power Start started with 20 children at one school and has grown to support close to 70 children at 4 different schools, with requests for more! All of the schools are situated on the North Shore of Kamloops, which has been identified by UBC's EDI (Early Learning Instrument) as one of BC's highest need communities.
Our solution is simple. By ensuring that children have safe, reliable transportation to school, access to caring, supportive adults, a nutritious breakfast and assistance with basic hygiene prior to the start of their day, they will have a higher likelihood of success during the day. The children that participate in the program are chosen by the school in order to ensure that the most vulnerable ones have access. Many of the Power Start children also attend our after-school programs, and so receive "wrap-around" care during the majority of their day. The relationships that are developed with these children allow us privileged access to some of the highest need children in Kamloops. We are then able to advocate on their behalf, provide them with safe, healthy recreational activities and role-model effectively.
Every morning of every school day, Power Start staff board buses at 7am and head out to pick up children. A few minutes before arriving at a child's home, the Supervisor calls the house to let them know they will soon be arriving. Some of the children literally crawl out of bed to meet the bus after receiving the call. Once on the bus, the child is greeted by a smiling, familiar group of faces and the same process is followed until everyone is picked up. Upon arrival at the school, the staff work to set out a nutritious breakfast for the children, assist them with basic hygiene (such as brushing their teeth and washing their hands and faces) provide some energizing and unique recreational activities and send them out into their day with a snack set aside for recess. This program is making a difference to so many children in so many ways...all of them come with unique situations. Some of the children initially have severe food security issues, and if left to eat alone, would eat themselves sick. Staff monitor these children to ensure that they are eating sufficient amounts and to give the children confidence that they will have a snack to eat at recess.
This program is unique in Kamloops, but we are not working alone. We have a close working relationship with the school staff and wonderful support from a team of volunteers at a local engineering/consulting firm named Urban Systems. We have heard of other communities with breakfast programs, but none that offer transportation as well.