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!

Upcoming Youth Exchange to New Brunswick

The above slideshow is from our last Youth Exchange to Haida Gwaii in 2017

Students at the YMCA Academy are preparing for the upcoming Youth Exchange that will be taking place from April 13th to 19th, and the 18th to the 24th of May.

In this youth exchange people from Tobique First Nations, New Brunswick will be coming for six days to Toronto to learn and experience a different sort of culture from their own. They will be guided around the city by the YMCA Academy’s students who will be later going to where they’re from just a month from now.

While they’re here we will be welcoming them with a feast, doing a city wide scavenger hunt on the TTC, doing volunteer work, taking them to Center Island and Niagara Falls, and just exploring the general city areas.

The goal of this Youth Exchange is to learn how other communities across Canada live and work in different ways, and the differences or similarities of two completely different environments, city and somewhat rural land. Some great outcomes of this experience include the new knowledge students gain about how the world works, and important life skills like knowing how to travel, how to interact with new people, and people who live in a different environment.

To find out more about this exchange look out for photos, blog posts, and posts on our social media pages!

Academy on ice: Building community through skating and hot chocolate

Students skating at Nathan Phillips Square

By Jonah Milo

On February 22, the YMCA Academy went on our annual school skating trip. The entire school including all grades and teachers walked down to Nathan Phillips Square and participated in skating and enjoying the trip as a community. Students with years of skating experience as well as students who have never tried on skates before all participated with enthusiasm in skating, drinking hot chocolate and enjoying the -6 degree weather we were blessed with.

The skating trip is a good opportunity for the school to do something as a community. During the trip you will see all the students participating in skating as well as more experienced skaters helping the less experienced. The skating trip is one of the many trips the school has throughout the year. The community at the YMCA Academy is something that is important to us and is why we have many trips throughout the year such as the skating trip as well as our Cedar Glen trip, and Toronto Island trip. These trips help us get to know each other as we grow as a school and as a community.

Check out more photos from this event on Facebook page!

Jonah is a Grade 12 YMCA Academy student.