This is the fifth year that Professor Jean Golden of the Sociology Department at Ryerson University in Toronto, Canada, has brought a group of students from Ryerson to conduct programmes and participate in the life of Every Child Counts School. These programmes benefit both the Ryerson and Every Child Counts students. While the university students bring down programs which they have planned for the children they always say that they learn as much from the ECC children as the children learn from them.
This year, nine students from Ryerson began working in the school on May 1. For eight of them this is part of their degree requirement and for one it is for advanced planning for a new “Arts Buddies” programme for autism. Five of the students are early childhood studies specialists and will be working in the primary department for four weeks. Three of the students are in the University social work programme and will be staying for two months.
The social work students will be working on projects for the school such as an online yearbook, archive system and in-depth bios of the children for fundraising and scholarships. They will also be continuing the standardized testing which was begun last year and so will be providing continuity in this field. The students will also be planning lessons for teachers and later organizing a fundraiser for the Every Child Counts School back home in Canada.
They will be taking up some of the children’s art to be placed on display in the gallery art space at the University and then put up for auction. Cassandra Myers is the student of the group involved in the ‘Child and Youth Care’ program and will be working with the ECC art teacher Nicole de Nardin on art for children with autism.
On arrival at the school, the students were given an overview and history of the school by Principal Lyn Major, and then matched in classes with a teacher. A couple of times a week the students will participate in informative sessions about Abaco to learn more about its issues and to become more aware of cultural differences. The immigration issue will also be studied for this helps the Ryerson students understand better the ECC students and many of the problems they face.
The students send a report on their work to their supervisor back at the University every day.
The students expressed how interested they were in the story of the school and how impressed they were with Lynn Major’s success.
“Despite all obstacles, she keeps going and this is a great place. The passion of the staff is also so inspiring and we want to take it back home and run with it,” they stated.
Several of the students mentioned how the experiences they are gaining at ECC are not like anything they have done before.
“We wanted to get experience working with children with disabilities but this is a new culture with completely different types of programmes from those back home. It is unique, not like anything we have ever seen. The classes are small so the teachers know every child on an individual level and are very aware of their problems. None of the children are intimidated and everyone helps everyone else. This is definitely a safe haven for the children and they have told us that coming to school is their favourite thing. We are impressed with how the whole atmosphere at the school is so relaxing and it feels like a community. The children learn real-world skills such as sewing, cooking, farming and other skills for when they leave school,” they stated.
The Ryerson students were pleased with how well the ECC children had taken to them. Professor Golden says that she is hoping to create a pool of students at the University who will come and teach at ECC on a yearly basis. All of the students in this current group professed a keenness to return.