Most students graduate high school with a regular Dogwood diploma, but since 2004 some students finish with a second option, an Evergreen certificate.
It’s the end result of what’s called the school completion program for students without the academic or other abilities to participate in the regular program, says Debra Thame, program coordinator and teacher at Caledonia Senior Secondary.
Thame said these students – usually chronically ill or with other limitations – are often identified in Grade 7 to 9, but sometimes as early as kindergarten. The decision to put them in the school completion program is made by teachers, parents, the student and a psychologist.
The goal is to “give them as many skills as possible for them to live as independently as possible,” said Thame.
It is to help them become “productive and active members of our community despite the fact that they have a variety of degrees of disabilities that hamper that,” she added.
When student begins Grade 10, Thame discusses their post-graduation with them and their parents.
“Are they going to live independently, or semi-independently? Will they stay at home? Will they live in a supervised or partially supervised setting? What are they looking at in terms of jobs?” she said.
From there they create plans and units – vastly different based on the students ability – to equip the students with life skills.
It includes everything from washing hands properly to doing laundry to counting and budgeting money. They learn things about edible plants, reading maps, writing a letter or a letter to the editor, voting and developing reading comprehension.
“I take kids as far as they can go based on their own disabilities,” Thame said, adding that some will live with their families their whole lives, and want to be productive and helpful there.
As often as possible, the students take part in regular classes such as woodworking or foods, science and math, with adjusted requirements and simplified projects. Math typically focuses on counting and handling money, science typically focuses on personal safety.
Thame says most of the Evergreen student’s education is centered on independence, but also safety, recognizing that these students are more vulnerable than others, as they sometimes lack the ability to read social cues such as when people are joking or being mean.
In Grade 12, Thame helps parents with applications for monetary support and connects them with organizations such as the Terrace & District Community Services Society to help students smoothly shift from school into adult life.