One of the most satisfying things for a Head of School is to happen across research that validates and justifies what you are already doing.  It was with considerable interest that I read The Learning Partnership’s recent report “Resilience in Children and Youth: Promising Practices from Canada’s Outstanding Principals”. (

For the researchers involved in the study, developing the capacity for resilience in our students – the capacity for children and youth to navigate to the resources they need – is a singularly important function of schools.

According to their research, “When we provide children and youth who are ‘at risk’ with supports that facilitate their growth, the research shows very clearly that eventually all the effort by teachers, educators, guidance counselors and special educators pays a dividend far into the future.” (Dr. Michael Ungar, Ph.D., Co-Director, Resilience Research Centre, Killam Professor of Social Work, School of Social Work, Dalhousie University)

A quick scan of the Criteria for a Resilience Promoting School reads like a description of The YMCA Academy.  The criteria are based on research by the Resilience Research Centre across many different cultures. “Both qualitative and quantitative studies have shown that facilitative environments that promote all seven of these aspects of children’s lives are likely to provide children who are disadvantaged with opportunities to experience resilience.”

Schools that promote resilience provide opportunities for students to experience:

Nurturing Relationships

  • There are positive peer interactions in which every child has an opportunity to show others his or her talents.
  • There is active participation of parents and other caregivers in children’s learning, with channels for communication open between the child’s home and school.
  • Educators have opportunities to build strong relationships with students and provide mentorship to the most vulnerable.

Developing a Positive Identity

  • There are activities at which every child can succeed.
  • There are opportunities for children to show others their talents.
  • There are opportunities for children to feel unique and valued.

Power and Control

  • There are opportunities for students to influence their learning.
  • Students’ voices are heard in the design of extra-curricular activities.
  • Students are rewarded with success when they put in extra effort.

Social Justice

  • Students, regardless of ethno-racial background, gender, sexual orientation or ability,
  • are treated fairly while at school.
  • Curriculum, when possible, reflects the cultural and contextual diversity of students.

Access to Resources

  • Students feel safe at their school.
  • Extra curricular activities are affordable.
  • The school building is accessible.
  • Children’s basic needs for food and clothing are met, when possible.

Sense of Belonging

  • Children feel welcome at their school no matter what their background.
  • Children are given opportunities to contribute to their school and the well-being of others.
  •  Children’s families are welcome at the school.


  • Children’s diverse cultures and traditions are celebrated at school.
  • Children are able to share at school aspects of their lives that are important to them.
  • Children have opportunities to tell stories about their past and the history of their families.

I think parents and guardians of our students will agree that we provide every opportunity to develop resilience in our students based on these descriptors.

If you have a child who is struggling in a traditional high school, you owe it to yourself to visit the Academy to learn more about our program.  More importantly, you owe it to your child.

Don Adams, Head of School

Aug 13th, 2012 – The Resilient Student