Outreach program at LaSalle Community Comprehensive High School
One group was shooting hoops in the gym, while in the cafeteria at LaSalle Community Comprehensive High School, some were carving pumpkins, others were decorating cupcakes and some were even getting manicures. At the same time, there was a lot of karaoke-style singing to the Mama Mia movie in the school theatre.
Not just a typical day at a high school.
What was taking place in fact, was all part of an Outreach program which brings together Secondary V students at LaSalle Community Comprehensive High School (LCCHS) with members of the West Montreal Readaptation Centre (WMRC), a rehabilitation centre for children and adults with an intellectual disability, pervasive developmental disorder or autism spectrum disorder.
“When you see the impact these activities have on both the students and the WMRC clients, it’s very impressive…,” said the project’s founder Andrea Intrevado, who teaches Canadian and Quebec History at the school and is the community service co-ordinator for the school’s International Baccalaureate program.
She said about half of the 45 students in the Outreach Program take part in an Activity Day at the school, while the other half of the group go on monthly outings with WMRC Clients. “Often, it’s just a trip to the dollar store or to a café,” said Intrevado.
In fact, only the Saturday before, students Jordan Campbell and Alicia Dirico accompanied WMRC resident Mary Rose Casey on an outing to a local coffee shop and to a dollar store.
“It was a good experience and a lot of fun,” said Jordan, 16. Although the course is compulsory for the the Sec. 5 students, both Alicia and Jordan said they would have signed up to do it regardless. “It’s a great idea,” said Alicia.
Both students and Casey were enthusiastic participants at the recent Activity Day at the school, which also included video games and mini-bowling. Casey, who loves to sing – and whose voice echoed well in the school hall – happily went from decorating cupcakes to taking part in the Mama Mia sing-along.
“I love it – I love the singing, the movies and bowling,” said Casey who was one of the first WMRC clients to take part in the Outreach program when it began last year. “These are my friends.”
Shelley Fender, a human relations officer for the WMRC said the Outreach program has been a complete success for WMRC clients.
“The individual attention our clients get from the students is invaluable – they feel heard, understood and accepted by a group,” said Fender. “They are proud to go out with their “friends” for a coffee and some have learned so many useful things, including how to use the community library and how to use a tablet computer.
“This is exciting stuff!”
Her thoughts were echoed by Giovanna Ciaramella, also a human relations officer for WMRC: “The reaction from our clients has been amazing – all our clients say they feel accepted and respected by the students, which is powerful.”
“The two groups are just a natural fit.”