Global Climate Strike

Last Friday, the school went to the climate march. The march began at 12pm at Queen’s Park and went along Wellesley Street, down Bay Street, along Queen Street past City Hall, and then back up University Avenue to Queen’s Park.

All the attendees were either students or adults that are concerned about the state of our planet/future. We were at the protest to tell our government that we are disappointed that they are not doing something to save our planet. We were there to also tell them that if they don’t do something now we will not have a future.

The event had a big impact. “It’s thousands of people marching down the street,” says Quinn. “I hope the government will listen because if they don’t, the human race will become extinct because of the amount of carbon in the air.”

For some students, the event was challenging. “I thought that it was very crowded,” says Claire. “There was so much cheering going on.”

But regardless, Friday’s Climate Strike made some clear connections to what our students are learning. “It demonstrated how people want to change the government,” explains Logan. “In Civics class, we talked about how important climate change is in relation to how it impacts people and society.”

By the Grade 10 Civics class

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Youth Exchange Canada: Tobique First Nation

From May 18th to 24th, students and staff from the YMCA Academy shared in an amazing experience visiting Tobique First Nation in New Brunswick as part of the YMCA Youth Exchange Canada program. Many students felt that this trip was a highlight of their high school career and will always remember the fun and interesting activities they did and the wonderful people they met.

Our group met at the airport early Saturday morning, tired but excited for the adventure. After a short flight we arrived at the Fredericton airport and took a bus to Camp Wolostoq. We got a little lost on the way as Rein tried to direct the airport bus down an ATV trail, but we eventually made it, mostly in one piece! The camp was great, there was lots of open space and forested area. All of the cabins had been recently painted with artwork displaying animals that have a cultural significance. We were able to meet the artist who painted the cabins and she told us about why they are important to their culture.

The first night we had a chance to catch up with everyone who had visited us a month earlier in Toronto and also meet some of their friends and family. We settled into our cabins and had a campfire complete with hotdogs and s’mores.

The next day we visited Fredericton and went to the University of New Brunswick to learn about the history of Indigenous peoples through a pop up museum and also got to visit the Beaverton Art Gallery. We explored downtown Fredericton and then headed to Kingswood Entertainment Centre where we got to go bowling and play laser tag and arcade games.

The following day we hung out at the Wolostoq Education Initiative/Tobique Youth Centre and found out about the facilities available and activities they run. We had the option of going fiddlehead picking and were able to forage buckets full of the beloved young fern/vegetable, which we enjoyed for dinner a couple of days later. We also visited Hartland to walk across the longest covered bridge in the world!

The next day we toured the reserve and the local elementary school and helped out in a nearby community garden planting herbs and vegetables. Then many of us participated in a sweat lodge ceremony, which for some was a highlight of the week. The experience was 3 hours long, comprised of 5 themed sessions that allowed participants to share their thoughts and feelings, while in a hot, dark space in very close proximity to each other. It was a very special experience that we will treasure. After this it was a quick transition to Grand Falls for a chilly zip line across some spectacular waterfalls.

The next day we did many activities that taught us about the history and culture of Indigenous peoples. We chose from a variety of crafts, including basket-weaving, wood burning, rock painting, rattle making, and medicine bag making, and also had a chance to learn about the use of plants as medicine and go on a plant scavenger hunt. That evening there was a community potluck and drum and dance circle, which was a lot of fun.

Our last full day was spent at Camp Shiktehawk and we had perfect weather for all of the fun activities, including archery, human bowling, ropes courses and rock climbing. That night we had a friendly game of kickball, Toronto vs. Tobique, and then had many of Tobique youth come back to camp with us for the last night. In the morning we were certainly sad to see the week come to an end and to have to say good-bye to our friends, but we had such a great time and know that we will stay in touch and hopefully see them again soon.

Some words from our students:

“This exchange was one of the highlights of my high school experience and I would very much recommend it to other students.” -Seth

“It was a great trip, I wish it was longer!” -Peter

“I had the time of my life!” -Javier

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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.”

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Youth Exchange Canada: Toronto – Day Six & Seven

The youth exchange and the people from New Brunswick got up really early to go get the bus to Niagara Falls.

On the way to Niagara Falls the bus was sleepy and quiet and when we got close to Niagara Falls everyone started playing music and it was exciting. We were all happy and excited to get there!

We got off the bus and got into groups and picked a place for lunch . People walked around and brought some treats and stuff.

After lunch we walked around the Ripley’s Believe It or Not museum and learned about all kinds of wacky stuff. From there we walked the path towards the Falls and stopped to take lots of photos and marvel at the amazing natural wonder.

Then all of the great walking the group did. We went to the school for a dance.

The dance was put on by the Academy’s dance committee who prepared for about a month in advance. Lots of students who were not part of the exchange program came out, as well as some Academy alumni and friends. There was pizza and snacks as well as lots of glow sticks. The student DJ played a good mix of songs and took requests which got everybody dancing. It was a great last night in Toronto for our visitors from New Brunswick.

The next morning we got together for one last meal together and to say goodbye. We had breakfast at the restaurant next to their hotel so they would be ready for their airport pick up. We shared some memories of the week and appreciation for hosts and visitors. We then gifted our visitors with framed artwork of Toronto that we had all signed and they gave us beautiful artwork of their land.

We stood in the rain as our visitors loaded on the bus and many of us even ran after the bus as it drove away. It was sad to see them go, but exciting to know that we would see them again in just a few short weeks when we travel to Tobique.

By Sophia and Seth

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Youth Exchange Canada: Toronto – Day Five

On the fifth day of the Youth exchange, we started the day at Casa Loma. Before the arrival at Casa Loma we separated into two groups- one group took the scenic route and walked, while the other group took the TTC. We had a self guided visit, meaning we could explore the different rooms and buildings on our own. It was fun going through the long dark tunnels and climbing up the towers to get a good view of the city. We had a nice lunch on the terrace of Casa Loma with the most beautiful weather of the week!

After lunch, we all took the subway down to Ripley’s Aquarium. The aquarium, being a large attraction, is something that our visitors may not have experienced before. Once we got there, we split off into smaller groups so that we can all do what we wanted to do within the time we had. We spent an hour or two there to see everything the aquarium has to offer. Once we all met up afterwards, we walked down to the CN tower. Visiting the CN tower is also a Toronto exclusive experience and something that you must do while here. As we make our way up the tower, we all experience the view of downtown but it couldn’t beat the view we would all get at the top. Once we get there, we are greeted by this amazing view of Lake Ontario. One of the first thing we do is point out where our school is as well as some of the places we had visited already during their time here. This was not only a great experience for them but for us too.

At the end of the day, we went to VRPlayin to have dinner and play VR games. It was really fun due to the way VRPlayin is set up. We split into smaller groups so it allowed people who never used VR to have a better experience learning how to play it. For those who have played VR the smaller groups gave them a chance to play more complicated games allowing them to have a good time at their experience level. It was 2 to 3 people per booth and the thing about the booths is that they are using the full HTC vive (which is a virtual reality headset with body tracking). This is the most advanced VR system that is possible at the moment. All the booths could connect which enabled us to play a bunch of games together. It was a lot of fun to play a bunch of games with your friends which you couldn’t play anywhere else. Near the end of the night we put the hockey game up on one of the spare TVs and people started watching that as well. We were also able to donate leftover food to The Scott Mission, for which they were very grateful. All in all, it was a very good end to a good day.

By James, Peter and Shay

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