Mental Health Literacy Day

Singing in unison. Planting seeds and digging in the dirt. Reading graphic novels. Eating a delicious meal. Journaling. Making art. Exercising. These are more than just fun activities: they are all powerful tools to reflect on and make changes in your mental health and well-being. And on Friday, May 10, YMCA Academy students did all of these things, and much more, at the school’s second annual Mental Health Literacy Day.

This event is the latest in a long line of Academy initiatives built to help young people understand and manage their mental health. As a school, we’ve long taken a holistic approach to student support, and we were an early adopter of making mindfulness exercises a daily part of school life. Earlier this year, we launched a unique interdisciplinary course in mental health advocacy and awareness. “We are really looking to empower students so that they are building up their skill sets while they’re here,” says Kaili Glennon, the Academy’s Assistant Head of School and Guidance Supervisor. “That way, when they leave, they have the capacity to be healthy and happy on their own.”

With that in mind, Mental Health Literacy Day was designed with a hands-on, practical approach. The workshops and guest speakers each provided students with resources and knowledge they can use right away to improve their mental health, and become more literate in mental health issues. “This event is about starting a conversation about mental health, and making it a regular part of our speech,” says Dayna Dann, Academy teacher and creator of the new mental health course. “We want to give students the language to communicate their feelings in a positive way.”

For Bailey, a YMCA Academy student, the impact was immediate. “On Mental Health Literacy Day, I learned lots of things,” he says. “I learned that walking can help with your mental health, which I had no idea would help. I also learned lots about how to sleep better and how to manage my sleep.”

Bailey sees a range of benefits to events like these. “First of all, it informs everyone about mental health and some people forget about it,” he says. “As well, it can give the students a break and relieve the stress and anxiety of school.”

Duncan, another Academy student who is also enrolled in the school’s new mental health course, agrees. “I think it’s very important to discuss and do events surrounding mental health,” he says. “There is a lot of stigma and negativity surrounding mental health. So it’s very important to learn about things like that.”

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

Allan Gardens Trip

On Friday, April 12, Zoe’s Art class and Dayna’s Mental Health class went on a trip to Allan Gardens. The Art class had just learnt about Georgia O’Keeffe and her beautiful paintings of flowers. The goal of the trip was to take a zoomed in and abstract photo of a flower to then recreate as a watercolour painting in class. Students took some really interesting photos of different flowers. Some photos were so up close that you could hardly tell it was a flower at all!

Dayna’s class was focusing on relaxing and appreciating beauty in nature. Prior to the trip, the class has spoken about how there is a connection between mental health and the outdoors. Allan Gardens is a place the students can visit to experience serenity only 15 minutes away from the school. Overall, the trip was enjoyed by both classes, because of both the beauty and the warmth of the greenhouses!

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

Ontario Science Centre

On Tuesday April 9, the Academy’s two science classes made their way to the Ontario Science Centre to embark on a cosmic journey. The first part of the day gave students the opportunity to explore the space exhibit, where they investigated celestial objects they’d already learned about in the classroom, as well as celestial objects and phenomena they would be learning about after the trip. After the self guided tour of the space exhibit, students were treated to the IMAX movie Journey to Space, followed by a tour of the universe at the Centre’s planetarium. By the end of the adventure, it was the most jam packed outing to the Science Centre to date.

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

Academy Rowing Crew’s 24-hour Row

The Sweat for Good Challenge!

It’s just 3 days until the Academy Rowing Crew’s 24-hour row!

We’ll be rowing from 8am on Friday, March 1st through to 8am on Saturday, March 2nd.  This is truly an Academy community event.  We currently have over 65 students, staff, alumni, families, volunteers and friends signed up to participate with our team!

Adding to the team effort this year, Colleen, one of the Academy’s teachers, will be attempting to set a new world distance record for a 24-hour row.

The Sweat for Good Challenge (formerly known as Megathon) is an important part of our school’s annual initiative to promote the connection between mental wellness and physical activity. The focus is to raise our students’ awareness about the role physical activity plays in mental health. Being active reduces the effects of stress, anxiety, and depression — issues that impact many young people.

Last year, we raised over $2,500 and our goal is to surpass that number this year.

All fundraising from this event goes towards making YMCA programs financially accessible to everyone. Students at the Academy benefit directly from these funds.

Check out our Sweat for Good Challenge page – Donations can be made here!

If you wish to participate and haven’t signed up already, there’s still time to join our crew – contact Katie Clay

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!