The Street School Advantage: Wrap-Around Support Enabling Marginalized Adult Learners

This Entry has been submitted.

The Street School Advantage: Wrap-Around Support Enabling Marginalized Adult Learners

Kamloops, CanadaKamloops, Canada
Organization type: 
Project Stage:
$50,000 - $100,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

The life chances of marginalized individuals and subsequent growth of the local economy are bolstered through the wrap-around support offered at Street School

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

The 2006 census revealed that 22% of the local population had less than high school education, resulting in a low-skills/low-wage/high unemployment regional economy. In fact, the most recent (July 2012) data shows 8.2% of our 90,000 residents are presently unemployed. Recent declines in forestry have resulted in job loss for many older, unskilled workers. Yet new jobs are available in the region in the mining sector, however high school graduation is a requirement for this skilled workforce. Therefore, acquiring an Adult Dogwood through the Street School program improves students' opportunity for employment and further job skills training. Also reducing recidivism, we provide inmates with employment skills and educational upgrading upon release. We are making a tangible difference!

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

Over the past 5 years the number of adult learners who have upgraded through our program has grown from 163 to over 500 annually. The number of graduates obtaining their Adult Dogwood Degree has risen from less than 10 to over 50 in 2012. The key to this success has been our Literacy Outreach Worker. Our LOW interviews individuals and works closely with teachers to assess skill levels and to determine possible prior learning credits, arriving at students present educational needs. She then becomes a student advocate: counseling individuals and working closely with probation officers, social workers, aboriginal bands and community service providers to ensure students' financial, transportation, housing, health, daycare and other fundamental needs are met. Upon completing their learning plans, our LOW transitions students into post-secondary/trades programs, or provides them with job search skills as she works with local employment agencies and regional employers to find job placements.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

1. KS was referred to Street School from New Life Mission. After meeting with Probations our LOW established a placement at Community Gardens for KS, whose interest was horticulture. Once KS gained confidence, our LOW took KS to the Gathering Place at TRU to access housing and financial aid, enabling him to continue his studies in horticulture at the post-secondary level. 2. LT was a single mom fleeing a violent relationship. For 6 months our LOW helped her with a Victim Impact Statement, accompanied her to court and secured child care for her. This enabled LT to finish her Adult Dogwood diploma and with a reference from our LOW, LT enrolled in the Human Services program at TRU, which she has nearly completed. 3. MS had made countless applications for financial aid. Our LOW fought to get funding for him to participate in the Work Search program. Despite his criminal background he graduated with his Adult Dogwood and now is working full-time. 4.JS was treated for severe mental health issues. Our LOW connected her with psychiatrists, nurses and community workers, even accompanying her to appointments. JS since graduated and moved away to attend college, but she still is in regular contact with our LOW. 5. DW had been working on his Adult Dogwood in the alternate program before being incarcerated. When his sentence was finished he completed his diploma at Street School, and with the help of our LOW enrolled at TRU where he is in the third year of the Social Work program. These cases are typical of the varied support offered by our LOW and the resulting successes.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

SD #73's Street School program is unique for these reasons. First, we grew out of a classroom at the New Life Mission which serviced the "street people" of Kamloops. Unlike its counterparts in the lower mainland, which cater to a much higher percentage of ESL students and those upgrading for UBC or SFU, we work with marginalized populations in an impoverished neighborhood, to improve not only their grades, but their confidence in their abilities, their optimism for the future, and ultimately their over-all well-being. Also we service incarcerated students, helping them transition back into the community and reducing rates of recidivism, and we cater to many aboriginal students from rural reserves, as well as older, displaced forestry workers. So both our clientèle and approach is unique.

Founding Story

When something just "works" it takes on a life of its own. Such has been the legacy of the Street School program. As our mission statement articulates, we strive "To provide opportunities for meaningful learning by supporting students within the classroom and in the community". And our LOW accomplishes our mission daily. The proof is in the testimonials of our graduates, many of whom did not have the confidence to return to a school system which alienated them. However, with the on-going support of our LOW and her connections to community agencies such as the John Howard Society, the Kamloops Food Bank, Elizabeth Fry, ASK Wellness etc. these people experience success. As a result our popularity and enrollment have soared, so that we must now impose a waiting list rather than register more students than we can adequately service. Also, now prospective employers refer unskilled applicants to us directly, and look to us to provide new skilled employees who meet their workforce needs.
About You
Twin Rivers Education Centre / School District #73 Continuing Education
About You
First Name


Last Name


About Your Organization
Organization Name

Twin Rivers Education Centre / School District #73 Continuing Education

Organization Country

, BC, Kamloops

Country where this solution is creating social impact

, BC, Kamloops

Region in BC where your solution creates social impact

Thompson Okanagan.

How long has your organization been operating?

More than 5 years

The information you provide here will be used to fill in any parts of your profile that have been left blank, such as interests, organization information, and website. No contact information will be made public. Please uncheck here if you do not want this to happen..

How long have you been in operation?

Operating for more than 5 years

Which of the following best describes the barrier(s) your solution addresses? Choose up to two

Access, Equity.

Social Impact
Please describe the goal of your initiative; outline what you are trying to achieve

Unfortunately the Literacy Outreach Worker is not an employee of SD #73, but is contracted through Interior Community Services, to work in our program. Therefore we must raise enough money to pay her salary by securing grants. In the past we have been awarded the Community Adult Literacy Program grant to offset this cost, however this year's application was denied. Despite a grant of $15,000 from the United Way and a $5,000 grant from Raise a Reader, we are still $40,000 short of our target amount. So, our first goal is to ensure the continuation of the LOW position for this school year. With that accomplished we can work towards our overriding goal, to provide adult students with the education and "wrap-around" support needed to prosper individually and thus to improve the local economy.

What has been the impact of your solution to date?

In 2009 our LOW made approximately 190 contacts with outside agencies on behalf of at least 60 students. In 2010 this rose to over 250 contacts for an estimated 70 students, with half of those being KRCC inmates transitioning back into the community. In fact approximately 30% of our students are incarcerated at KRCC, 25% are of aboriginal descent, and 50% live below the poverty level. Indeed these are the most disenfranchised segments of our population, however by providing on-going "wrap-around" support through our LOW, the vast majority of our students complete courses necessary for an Adult Dogwood diploma (in the last four years students have completed over 1,200 courses). Last year alone, we had over 50 students graduate with an Adult Dogwood diploma. Also, many students have gone on to post-secondary studies or have found employment, improving their (and their families') overall well-being. As these individuals gain independence and prosperity the local economy benefits as well.

What is your projected impact over the next five years?

We face a dilemma as we attract record numbers of applicants to Street School, but we do not want to compromise the level of support offered. This is especially true with the LOW position in jeopardy. Thus we are monitoring our growth carefully: we plan to expand our classroom space and to better equip it with technology. We are lobbying School District #73 for an increase to our budget and staffing, but funding is driven by enrollment, which must be kept in check. For direction we look to our mission statement, clarifying our primary purpose: that is to help marginalized adults not only learn in the classroom, but to experience success beyond our doors. Those students who only need academic upgrading may be referred to DL or TRU, so that we can continue to focus on our unique mandate.

What barriers might hinder the success of your project? How do you plan to overcome them?

Enticing adults back to school is difficult, especially if their previous classroom experiences have been negative or if they struggle with learning disabilities or low literacy skills. Therefore it is important to us to be a visible on the North Shore, the most impoverished part of the city. Not only are we well situated, but we also work closely with other neighboring agencies so that prospective students are referred to us. For example we work with Labour Ready, Access BC, local Ministry of Children and Families offices, LINK and the New Life Mission, all of which have sent adults to us for intake interviews. Word of mouth has also spread, and we strive to publicize our program by taking part in community events. Also we have had students speak publicly about their success with us.

Winning entries present a strong plan for how they will achieve and track growth. Identify your six-month milestone for growing your impact

As always we carefully track our student enrollment, successful course completion and graduation rates.

Identify three major tasks you will have to complete to reach your six-month milestone
Task 1

Using BCeSIS, the student electronic student database, we are able to track how many new students enroll between now and Feb.

Task 2

Also this database tracks the number of courses begun and the number successfully completed between now and Feb.

Task 3

During this period we will keep track of how many students finish the courses required for an Adult Dogwood diploma.

Now think bigger! Identify your 12-month impact milestone

In addition we need to document student needs, services provided and the outcomes of our program

Identify three major tasks you will have to complete to reach your 12-month milestone
Task 1

Develop an entry survey to better understand why adults apply, and what their learning needs and goals are.

Task 2

Track the number of outside contacts made by our LOW and the service provided to individual students.

Task 3

Track where our students go: those that successfully complete courses/diplomas and those that are unsuccessful.

Tell us about your partnerships
Are you currently targeting other specific populations, locations, or markets for your solution? If so, where and why?

Presently we service three general student populations: students transitioning from KRCC, marginalized adult learners (Aboriginals, women living in poverty, students with disabilities etc.), and adults wanting to upgrade for post-secondary or employment opportunities. Prospective students are referred through local agencies, employers, TRU and SD #73. Still others learn of SS through "word of mouth". To build our program further we plan to advertise in the local media, develop our website and increase our profile in the community. We are also extending our hours and course offerings as well.

What type of operating environment and internal organizational factors make your innovation successful?

Since it's origin in 2007 the LOW has made 503 contacts with 103 students at our KRCC location. 41% of these were about transitioning to our Street School classroom upon release; 38% were to help these students acquire housing, employment; treatment/recovery and other support. As a result 55 of the 103 did continue studies at SS: 9 obtained an Adult Dogwood (9 others received their AD prior to release); and 26 completed courses towards their AD at SS. These figures suggest the LOW is an important link between our KRCC and SS classrooms, resulting in the successful continuation of students' learning and transition back into the community after incarceration. Without this key position to work with students and agencies within and outside of KRCC higher rates of recidivism may well occur.

Please elaborate on any needs or offers you have mentioned above and/or suggest categories of support that aren't specified within the list

With the Cont. Ed. Directors' Assoc. we are developing tools to identify the needs of adult learners and better meet them. We are also involved in the Min. of Ed's review of the AD program to better align it with the needs of employers and the local economy. Once individual and societal needs are identified we can go forward to form a foundation for private and corporate financial support.