Three North Delta high school students are trying to build a stronger community, one Friday at a time.
Sonum Rana, Yajya Rishi and Leah Wong have spent the fall creating I.D.E.A.s (Inclusivity, Determination, Encouragement and Altruism), a new after-school drop- in program at Sands Secondary. Every Friday, students can drop by free of charge and play Nintendo Wii, ping-pong and a variety of board and card games while enjoying snacks and music.
As a result of taking chemistry 12 over the summer, the three Grade 12 students had a hole in their timetable that needed filling. Knowing them to be motivated and responsible individuals, principal Aaron Akune assigned them to “independent directed studies” and issued them a challenge: come up with a problem you’d like to solve and tackle it together.
“It was quite a bit of dialogue back and forth over about two weeks or so and eventually they, with a little bit of guidance, landed on the frustration of, ‘There’s so many of our classmates that are capable of doing so much more and they don’t realize how important [school] is, they don’t value their education enough,’” Akune said. “Then the question was, ‘Well, what are you going to do about it?’”
At first the girls thought about tutoring others, but they came to the conclusion that students don’t care enough about their education because they don’t feel connected to the school.
“We know that education doesn’t rely on just academic grades, but on how to communicate, how to interact with other students and different students from different [backgrounds],” Rishi said.
Though the program is open to everyone at Sands, the girls are particularly focused on reaching out to students who may be in need of a safe and stable environment.
“[On] Friday nights a lot of students play soccer [or] have extra curricular activities, and we want to target a demographic of students who don’t have the resources for those things [and] so are just going home on a Friday night, not really socializing,” Rana said. “That’s basically why we created the space: just to come, to hang out and know you’re doing something positive.”
So far, the crowd at I.D.E.A.s tends to skew towards the senior grades, but the girls are keen to reach out to younger students who may not yet have fully integrated into the social fabric of the school.
“We’ve talked to a couple of the Graded 8s and Grade 9s and that’s the response actually why they were hesitant to come: they thought it wasn’t for them,” Rana said. “But last week we had a good amount of them come, and once they came they realized that it’s not about grades. Everybody’s talking to each other.”
“I remember when I was in Grade 8, I never joined student council or [other school activities] and I think that’s because I was scared. We’re in Grade 8, we’re new, we don’t know anything and we don’t want to be embarrassed,” Wong said.
Still, turn out has been fairly good. In its first week back in November, the program drew about 40 students. The next week, that number doubled.
“I look at that and went, ‘I’m impressed,’” Akune said. “[But] they were disappointed because their expectation was ‘oh, we’re going to have half the school here.’”
As for Rana, Rishi and Wong, they have their sights set on one day expanding the program to include karaoke and monthly movie nights. Eventually, they’d like to see I.D.E.A.s spread to every high school in Delta.
“Why we created this space is basically for students to come and have a positive environment [in which] to hang out and interact with other students,” Rana said. “A big thing for us is that kids feel involved in the school community so they’re able to have confidence, and that will translate into the classroom and [their] outside life.”
Video courtesy of Delta School District.