Ending Homelessness – One Youth At a Time

 

Students and staff from the YMCA Academy once again braved the cold to help support Youth Without Shelter.

On Friday, February 1st, 25 students and staff participated in the 9th annual Time4Change (formerly Tokens4Change) fundraising event. The money raised goes to providing youth access to transit and empowering support programs at Youth Without Shelter, an emergency residence and referral agency in Etobicoke. Transit fare allows youth to attend school, seek a safe place to call home, find employment and new beginnings.

In January, the entire school participated in a workshop led by Youth Without Shelter, that educated students on the important programs they provide and why it is such a need in Toronto.This led many students to sign up and through the event gain deeper understanding through learning. Our students had the opportunity to teach commuters about the issue of homelessness and be engaged in powerful discussions. One youth was approached by a woman currently living in shelter who thanked them for their efforts. Another person commended us as they had volunteered at this event before and knew how challenging it is. Some passersby were impressed with our chants and enthusiasm, while others donated so that we would be quiet! Either way we were able to educate the public and bring in lots of donations, big and small, which helped make the event a success.

This year’s Time4Change event saw almost 600 volunteers canvassing at 27 locations. The grand total raised in just one day was $88,000!

Thank you to everyone who participated and donated to this great cause!

Fresh & Fiery Academy Hot Sauce!

It came time to harvest produce from our school garden!! Our Grade 7/8 class came up with ideas about what we could make with all of our produce. We had onions, tomatoes, and LOTS of different types of hot and sweet peppers. We decided that we would make HOT SAUCE!

Together we harvested everything from the garden. We looked up a variety of different hot sauce recipes and decided to combine a few to make our very own special Academy hot sauce. Next, we put on safety goggles and gloves to protect ourselves from the super hot peppers. Carefully we cut up all of our produce and simmered them down for several hours. Once it was ready, we allowed it to cool down, and blended it smooth. Then we were left with a large pot of hot sauce…

We knew that we wanted to jar the sauce, but we had no idea how much hot sauce we had! Luckily we figured out that if we figured out the volume of the pot, we could figure out how much hot sauce we had. So that is exactly what we did! First we all estimated how many cups of hot sauce we predicted was in pot. Then we calculated the volume. We then researched what jars we wanted to use and how many milliliters they held.We divided the volume of the sauce by the size of the jar. We calculated how many packages of jars we would need to purchase, how much they would cost and how much tax would be added. Then we used Google Maps to map our route and see how much time it would take us to get to the store to purchase our jars.

Once the jars were purchased and filled, the next step was to choose a name and design a label. Students worked together to come up with ideas, vote and eventually decided on Fresh and Fiery. The class also decided to sell the hot sauce for $7 each or 2 for $12 and all profits will go back to the garden fund.

This was a really nice project to start the year with as this project required a significant amount of collaboration and we were just getting to know each other and the school community.

This was a fun activity that had many curriculum connections. These connections were:

  • Math: Measurement and Volume
  • English: Blogs, read and writing the instructions
  • Science: PH levels
  • Business: Marketing, Brand management and Advertising

YMCA Academy Community Garden

The YMCA Academy is located right in the heart of the downtown core, however we do our best to stay as connected to the environment as possible. We have a green wall, plants all around the school and even a vermicompost! One of the highlights of our annual YMCA Cedar Glen trip is the time we spend on the farm, planting, harvesting and caring for the grounds. It is so nice to see the students getting their hands dirty, being outside away from technology, and finding relaxation in this work. For all of these reasons we decided to build our very own urban garden on one of the terraces connected to our school!

Step 1: Design
Our Green Industries class designed sub-irrigated planter boxes. With the location of the terrace, distance of a water source and direct sunlight, it was important that the planter boxes were designed with these limitations in mind.

Step 2: Create
Students in our Gardening Club, and Green Industries class worked together to build and assemble the bins. Building these bins required students to have a strong grasp of the design, collaborate with each other and follow the design instructions.

Step 3: Prepare
Our Personal Fitness class spent the morning hauling heavy soil and materials to the terrace garden. Each of the bins required several bags of soil so the team had lots to carry! Students were instructed on proper carrying techniques to avoid injury.

Step 4: Plant
Every student in the school was assigned one plant to bring in for the garden. Once they were all brought in our Green Industries class organized and planted them. Students brought in an excellent variety of herbs, vegetables, fruit, and flowers that attract bees and butterflies.

Step 5: Care for
As a community of staff, students and volunteers we all play a role in caring for our garden. Depending on the weather, the gardens are watered once a week and checked on each day for changes, needs and the opportunity to harvest.

Step 6: Harvest
The fresh vegetables in the garden were harvested by students daily, many vegetables and herbs such as cherry tomatoes, chives, and green were harvested for lunch time snacks and cooking club. The majority of hot peppers were harvested by the students in the 7 / 8 program and made into hot sauce!

It has been incredible to see the impact the garden has had on our school community since the garden has been built and begins to grow. Many students and staff have expressed how much they love getting the opportunity to spend time outside and around the plants. Many of us are over the moon when something begins to grow, fruit, or is ready for harvest. One of our students in particular has expressed that a quick visit to the garden helps to settle him, reduce stress and anxiety and gets him ready to focus in class.

Overall the garden has been a great success and we are looking forward to expanding our garden even more next season!

Take a look at our Hot Sauce blog to see what we did with this years harvest and check out the rest the rest of the pictures on our Facebook page!

Community Garden: Design, Create, Prepare | Community Garden: Plant, Care, Harvest

5km Bold and Cold Run!

On Saturday, November 24th, the YMCA Academy participated in the annual 5k Bold and Cold run organized by Team Unbreakable. Many students from the YMCA Academy showed up to either participate in the run, help out with the organization or show support for their peers. The 3 degree Saturday morning was the perfect weather for the 5K run the students had been training towards for the past months. Two of the Academy’s gym classes had been training for two months leading up to the run. As people arrived excited to run, it was some of their first times participating in a run and some were experienced runners but all were waiting and excited to begin. The energy in the crowd of people who had assembled to participate was extremely positive with encouragement throughout the group and eagerness to run.

Each student had their own personal goal that they had been working towards. Javier, a student who had never participated in a run before, said his goal was simply finishing. “I didn’t want to do it”, he said about leading up to the race, but “the support of the teachers” is what made him participate in the run. Seth, a student who is an experienced runner had a goal of finishing in under 25 minutes. He ended up finishing in 21 minutes and 40 seconds! “I felt accomplished,” said Seth about how he felt finishing the run, adding that “Nils came in every Wednesday to help us train for the run so that was very helpful”. The Academy had partnered with Team Unbreakable leading up to the run and Nils, a representative of Team Unbreakable, came in every week to help the Academy gym class students train for race through interval training. He helped each student achieve their personal goal.

The run had the students excited about participating in physical activity and helped educate them about mental health. “The run was a great experience” said one of the students, “and I hope to participate in the next one in spring”.

Check out more photos from this event on our Facebook page!

Written by: Jonah M.

Students participate in the Shoebox Project!

This holiday season the YMCA Academy community came together to support woman impacted by homelessness by creating gift-filled shoeboxes. Students first learned about homelessness in Canada and then brainstormed what gifts women would want and need. Each advisory group decorated a shoebox, wrote a card with an inspiring message, and filled their box with thoughtful gifts to make a woman feel special.

The Shoebox Project for Women operates throughout Canada and the United States, delivering gift-filled shoeboxes to women in need. In Toronto the shoeboxes are distributed to women accessing a variety of services such as the YMCA Women’s Shelter, CAMH, Native Women’s Resource Centre, Covenant House etc. The aim of the project is to remind women that they have not been forgotten and that they are a valued and respected member of their community.

This project aligns with the YMCA’s core values and provided many benefits for our students including:

  • helping them to dissect the complex issues surrounding poverty and homelessness, particularly as they relate to women;
  • teaching them to challenge stigmas and stereotypes;
  • fostering empathy and understanding;
  • promoting community engagement and volunteerism.

It was great to hear students asking thoughtful questions about homelessness and to see them taking time to draw pictures and write kind words for their shoebox recipient. Through this project we have supported women in need, but also supported our students to be more engaged citizens.

We had so many generous gift donations that we were able to create an extra box (so 11 in total!) and make a donation of additional items to a shelter. So, thank you to everyone who helped make this project a success and we hope to make this an annual tradition.