Learning to lead funding approved in Chilliwack

Students at risk given opportunities to lead with $1.85 million grant

Federal funding has been approved for a new initiative that strives to give Chilliwack’s youth positive experiences.

The federal government has offered up $1.85 million in funding for the Learning to Lead program, which will target about 200 students over the course of five years. Learning to Lead is a partnership between Pacific Community Resources, School District 33, the RCMP and Chilliwack Lake Camp.

They came together more than a year ago to apply for the funding, but it just came through in December. Now that a manager for the program has been hired by PCRS, the program can start to take shape.

“It’s definitely an exciting initiative,” said Kirk Savage, director of instruction for the school district. “We’re going to be giving kids other options and showing them another way. Showing them other things to fill up their time so they’re not drawn to those elements that can be seductive to kids.”

The idea, he underlined, is to provide positive opportunities for the youth who need it the most.

There will be monthly outdoor excursions, weekly meet ups, work experience and volunteer opportunities, and plenty of access to support services. PCRS will operate the program through an office space in the Neighbourhood Learning Centre at the Chilliwack secondary school campus, while the school board will help identify which youth would benefit from participating.

Savage said they didn’t think the funding was going to come through, and now that it has, they’re quickly sorting out the particulars.

Steven Esau with PCRS said once the logistics are worked out, students will start getting referred from school counsellors. They’ll be focusing on youth ages 12 to 17, with the goal of helping students become leaders.

The funding was officially announced last Friday, and comes from the Crime Prevention Action Fund.

“I am pleased to support the Learning to Lead project, which will assist young people in Chilliwack and strengthen our community,” said MP Mark Strahl. “Our government is working together with community organizations to provide at-risk youth with the tools and opportunities they need to steer clear of violence and substance abuse.”

jpeters@theprogress.com