The YMCA Academy offers a unique array of extracurricular opportunities.
Academy teachers, staff, volunteers, and students lead a wide range of activities, from clubs and special events within the school’s facilities to major excursions to other parts of Canada.
Programming changes each school year, in response to the evolving interests and abilities of our students.
All extracurricular programming at the Academy is designed to:
- boost self-confidence;
- promote collaboration;
- build self-advocacy skills; and
- support socio-emotional well-being.
Since its founding year, The YMCA Academy has participated in exchanges through the YMCA Youth Exchanges Canada program.
Academy students are invited to participate in an exchange to help form strong links between their own communities and communities elsewhere in Canada. Through the YMCA’s Youth Exchanges Canada program, our young people are twinned with peers from another province or territory.
Past exchanges have seen Academy students travel to (and host students from) communities across Canada, including: Winnipeg, Manitoba; Oujé-Bougoumou, Quebec; Arviat, Nunavut; Medicine Hat, Alberta; Cornerbrook, Newfoundland; and Cumberland House, Saskatchewan.
An exchange provides Academy students with the opportunity to:
- Explore other regions of Canada;
- Live in another community;
- Meet new people;
- Explore cultural diversity;
- Initiate community service projects;
- Support classroom learning through experiential opportunities; and
- Act as ambassadors to Toronto by hosting students from other provinces.
Participating students learn from each other, grow to respect different cultures, and develop communication and leadership skills while forming a greater sense of Canadian identity. The exchange typically occurs near the end of second semester. Students fundraise throughout the year to host their visiting peers. The Government of Canada (through the YMCA Youth Exchanges Program) pays transportation costs (and, in some cases, accommodations).
Students are eligible for one exchange during their time at The Academy. Typically, students participate in one of their senior years.
As part of the Academy’s student-centred approach, a customized suite of clubs, extracurricular activities, and spirit days are initiated each school year.
Popular clubs and activities in past years have included Guitar Club, Basketball Club, Astronomy Club, Queer-Straight Alliance, Drama Club, and the Open Studio drop-in art program. Past spirit days have included lunchtime dance parties, Hallowe’en costume contests, scavenger hunts, Zombie Day, Twin Day, Hat Day, and more.
The Academy’s Breakfast Club Program was founded in December of 2009. The Club was created based on student need, and launched thanks to the tireless efforts of Academy staff and students, supported by generous donations from Sinking Ship Entertainment, Dale Jeffries, Breakfast for Learning, and My Market Bakery.
It is known that when young people are well-nourished, they perform better in school. For this reason, we work to ensure that students have access to the healthy breakfasts and snacks.
The Breakfast Club strives to provide a variety of healthy foods found in Canada’s Food Guide so students are ready to learn.
The menu varies from day to day and includes:
- a selection of baked goods (including whole grain breads)
- fresh fruit
- cheddar cheese
- cream cheese
- butter and jam
The nutritional benefits are just one advantage of the program. There is also something very special about what happens when people gather around food. The conversations that ensue, the jokes, the sharing of information and helpful tips — this sense of community that comes with sharing a meal creates essential bonds that strengthen our learning community.
Mindfulness is an integral part of the YMCA Academy learning community. We embed mindfulness practices such as the TUZA breathing exercise as part of daily lessons, and collaborate with Mindfulness Without Borders (MWB) for an annual series of all-school gatherings featuring discussion topics ranging from breath awareness and mindful listening to empathy and emotional intelligence.
Our long-standing, daily use of TUZA and early adoption of with the Mindfulness Ambassador Council (MAC) program positions the Academy as a thought-leader in a vital and growing educational shift toward providing holistic learning experiences.
Lee-Anne Gray, president and CEO of The Connect Group and an EMDR Certified Clinical Psychologist, describes the Academy’s adoption of the MWB program in a Huffington Post essay as “a nexus for co-learning, promoting 21st century skills and emotional intelligence, while healing Educational Trauma. Beyond innovative, it represents transcendental education for the 21st century.”
So what does mindfulness provide for our students? In Gray’s essay, Academy teacher, guidance counsellor, and MAC Ambassador Kaili Glennon lists some of its many benefits: “It teaches, helps nurture, and allows time to practice the most fundamental human skills; kindness, sensitivity, self-awareness, and compassion towards self and others.”