Visiting the Toronto Humane Society

The YMCA Academy aims to develop programming based on students’ interests and needs. Among our students there are currently lots of animal lovers and many interested in pursuing animal related careers. This lead staff to plan a trip to the Toronto Humane Society so students could find out more about the possibilities that lie ahead.

All three Learning Strategies classes came together for this trip based on the curriculum link to career exploration. Students learned about how the Humane Society helps care for homeless animals and were led on a tour of the facility. They got to meet lots of adorable cats, dogs, and small pets and were excited to learn their names, take pictures and interact with them from the other side of the glass. Students also had a chance for some up close animal visits inside the education center where puppies were brought in to play.

The primary objective of the trip was for students to learn about animal related careers and how they might one day get to work with animals. We heard from two Humane Society employees, a dog trainer and the manager of shelter care, about their jobs and how they got where they are. They told us that to do their jobs it takes a love of animals, a lot of dedication, and strong people skills. One important take home point for the students was that related experience, for example volunteering or dog walking, is really valuable when trying to get an animal care job. This information points many students towards the next step in a pathway to their dream job.

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

Yukon the Facility Dog

Hi, my name is Yukon. I am a special kind of Assistance Dog called a Facility Dog. A Facility Dog is an expertly trained dog who partners with a human working in a health care, visitation or education setting who is directly working with clients/students with disabilities. My human is Sue Couprie who you know as the Special Education Supervisor at the Academy.Yukon the Facility Dog at the YMCA Academy

I was born on June 30, 2016 and I was part of a litter of 10 pups. Two of my siblings were given to my father’s people and the rest of us started our training. I have been in training for the last 2 years with COPE Service Dogs in Barrie, Ontario. They are an accredited member of Assistance Dogs International and founding member of Canadian Association of Guide and Assistance Dog Schools.

My training has been intense. At first, COPE did not know what my or my siblings strengths would be so we received general training for many jobs. I started in the Canines in the Classroom program which matches high school students who face challenges that may prevent them from graduating from high school with dogs like me, and gives these students an opportunity to learn how to train assistance dogs.

Yukon the Facility Dog at the YMCA AcademyHere I was introduced to about 90 commands which included such things as opening doors, turning on lights, retrieving out of reach items and helping with dressing. My favorite command is “tug.” If you need a sock or a mitten taken off, I am your dog. I love to help.

I also went to elementary schools to help in a reading program called Reading Buddy, where I helped to motivate young students to read. I got to spend time listening to many great stories while getting a lot of cuddles.

I not only spent time in schools, but I also visited hospitals, senior centers, shopping centers, traveled by bus and Go train. In all these places I was learning how to behave in public spaces.Yukon the Facility Dog at the YMCA Academy

In July, I finally got to meet my person – Sue. We trained together for a couple of weeks under the all-seeing eye of COPE Service Dog trainers. It was Sue’s turn to learn how to work with me. She had to learn all of my commands, take written tests and together we passed our practical tests which officially lead to me becoming a Assistance Dog instead of a Assistance Dog-in-Training. To see us in action click here!

All of this was in preparation to become the Facility Dog at the Academy where I plan on giving unconditional love and attention to students and staff. We will be working together to figure out how best my skills and talents can benefit those at the school.

Some ideas include:

  • Classroom buddy – I will sit and cuddle you (students) while you read/study/complete your school work.
  • Conversation starter – I will work with students who need to practice their social skills. I do a lot of cool things that we can talk about and ask Sue about.
  • School avoidance or Anxiety – I can greet you at the door on the days that you need a little bit of encouragement to come to school.
  • Activity break – I also need to physically move around, so if you need an activity break from class, I will be happy to go for a walk with you in the school
  • Deep pressure – Some people like the feel of weighted blankets to calm themselves down or to help them relax. I am trained to place either my chin or my paws on your lap and apply pressure.

The best part is that I am still learning. If there is any other way you can think of that I could make your life better, talk to Sue and we will work together to try to figure it out.

Annual Cedar Glen Trip

Another year, another trip to Cedar Glen. The much beloved three day, two night trip was a resounding success. The weather was a mix of cool, wet weather, and beautiful snow of the course of the 17th, 18th, and 19th of October. This did not stop the students and staff from enjoying the great outdoors.

As has become tradition, the school’s environmental stewardship was spent working on the on-site farm. This year the staff and students helped to plant garlic, and blackberries as well as helping to prepare the farm for the winter. Despite the cold, perseverance was paramount, as the campfire and night hike were overwhelmingly popular activities.

Overnight a thin blanket of snow covered the ground as the first annual Academy Games kicked off. These events had teams of staff and students going from station to station doing a variety of activities such as trivia, archery, and fire-building. Excitement was high as the teams made their way back to enjoy a nice meal, and afterwards, a dance party!

Time wore on, giving way to a mixture of excitement and sadness, excitement for getting back to the routine of daily life, yet a longing to remain in such a fun and beautiful place. Such is the nature of the trip, and it gives us something to look forward to next fall.

Check out the rest the rest of the pictures on our Facebook page!

Album One | Album Two | Album Three

Contributing to the Urban Forest!

On September 12, three classes from the YMCA Academy took a field trip to the beautiful Toronto Islands to help plant native trees and shrubs to contribute to the urban forest! The Grade 10 Personal Fitness class, Grade 11 Math class and Grade 7/8 class all participated in this great initiative, organized by the City of Toronto. It was a beautiful, sunny day outside and the student’s ended up taking the ferry to Ward’s Island and then walking east towards St. Andrew-by-the-Lake Church. The walk was long but ended up being a nice warm up hike before getting to planting.

Once the classes arrived, a City of Toronto worker gave the students a tree planting demonstration. There are lots of important steps involved in planting a tree, especially making sure that the hole is big enough for the tree to grow in. After the demonstration, student’s paired up and started planting! The students worked together really well and got better at digging and planting with each tree they planted. It was great to see older students pairing up with and the Grade 7/8’s. About 2 hours later, the job was done! Together with other volunteers, our students helped to plant more than 200 trees on the Island! Though it was hard work, the classes did hands on work for a great cause. All students had a great time and were grateful to have spent their morning in such a beautiful place contributing to Toronto’s urban forest.

A New Era.

Academy Logo

We have taken a momentous step! As of June 30, 2018, YMCA Academy was incorporated as a charity separate from the YMCA of Greater Toronto.

There are many reasons for this!

  • We have been established for more than 15 years, and we believe the time is right to provide YMCA Academy with a higher profile and independent identity.
  • We believe this will help us build awareness about the Academy as an independent school for students with learning challenges and learning differences.
  • It will facilitate the recruitment of students.
  • It will assist with garnering financial support for the school.

While our greater independence is important, it is also important to recognize that the support of the YMCA of Greater Toronto has been, and will continue to be, of fundamental importance to our school. We will continue to have access to these supports moving forward.

Frequently asked Questions:

Why did the YMCA of Greater Toronto incorporate YMCA Academy as a separate charitable corporation?

  • With more than 15 years of success behind the YMCA Academy, the YMCA of Greater Toronto considered it time to foster a higher profile and independent identity for the school.
  • To help facilitate enrolment and teacher recruitment
  • To help garner financial support based on the unique stories of YMCA Academy
  • To more clearly align with independent schools in Ontario
  • To differentiate the school program from youth support programs offered by the YMCA of Greater Toronto

Will YMCA Academy continue to be a charity? Will I be able to make charitable donations directly to YMCA Academy?

  • YMCA Academy will be an independent charity, with a unique Charitable Registration Number. Donations can be made directly to YMCA Academy, or directed donations can be made through the YMCA of Greater Toronto.

Will the school still have a Board of Directors?

  • The school will have a board of directors, who will be members of the Board of Directors of the YMCA of Greater Toronto.

How will the school experience change for my child?

  • There will be no change – your child will continue to experience the same high standard of education at the YMCA Academy, with access to the same range of YMCA of Greater Toronto facilities and programs we presently enjoy.

How will the teachers and staff of YMCA Academy be affected by this change in status?

  • The Head of School, teachers, and staff of YMCA Academy will remain as employees of the YMCA of Greater Toronto, seconded to YMCA Academy.

How will this affect my tuition and other fees?

  • There will be no direct effect on tuition and fees. As in past years, families can expect incremental increases in tuition on a yearly basis.

How will this affect the status of YMCA Academy as a Ministry of Education-inspected independent school?

  • The Academy will continue to be inspected by the Ontario Ministry of Education bi-annually.