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

Relationship building with the OPP

On November 1, 2017, three senior YMCA Academy students visited the OPP- Queen’s Park Division to learn about all the employment opportunities within the department. We heard the personal stories of several officers about how their interests and training led them to their current jobs.  Some started as volunteers, others in the public sector, but all had one thing in common, they all agreed that having the skill and the love of communicating with the public was the most important skill to have.

We learned about the history and the current responsibilities of the OPP.  Did you know that the first motorized vehicles that the OPP used was the motorcycle?  Did you know that the first female officer joined the forces in 1974?  Neither did we, but we also did not know what different roles the OPP played in rural versus urban regions in Ontario, but we do now.  We also now know that sign language is a skill that is being encouraged in the OPP.  There are more people now with hearing related difficulties and as I said earlier, communication is a key skill in this job.

Fortunately we were able to witness several demonstrations.  We had a canine demonstration by Constable Hick and his partner “Cash” who is an Italian Sheppard named after Johnny Cash.  Other demonstrations included a Conducted Electrical Weapons (taser) and an O.C. Spray (Pepper Spray).  Safety was the primary focus with stress placed on understanding that there are clear guidelines about what situations warrant considering their use.

Since then, the OPP officers have reached out to our YMCA community several times.  They have hung out with us during lunchtimes, become members of our Dungeon & Dragon club and have been seen shooting hoops with our students in the basketball club.  This Thursday, they will be joining us in several discussion including internet safety, situation safety and nutrition & physical fitness.  In the coming months they will be our guests in:

  • Careers class to discuss career options
  • Physical Education classes to show the students what the physical training is like for their job
  • History class to discuss tactics of different societies and time periods (an expectation of the course)

I am very happy with the ongoing relationship we are developing with the OPP.  And I look forward to expanding their presence in our school as they are truly interested in the youth of this community.

The United Nations at the Academy

After completing three previous Insight Global Education topics and simulations, the time came for our final and most exciting one of them all. The United Nations (UN) simulation. This simulation models a United Nations (UN) meeting in which the members (students) reduce the seventeen Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to seven goals. Students were divided into delegates from fifteen countries and worked together to create the new seven goals, based on the past SDGs and MDGs.

The UN created the Sustainable Development Goals in 2015, following the expiration of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). These seventeen goals were developed to improve the lives of people and the planet by 2030. Both the MDGs and the SDGs reflect current global challenges and outline potential solutions to solving these problems.

Students developed an understanding of the overarching discourse in global development and recognized the complexities and strategies that are necessary when creating and implementing global development regimes. Student delegations worked with one another in backroom style “wheeling and dealings” in order to ensure the seven best SDGs were passed at the end of the simulation.

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