At first glance, Billy and Ken seem an unlikely pair, but Strathcona-Tweedsmuir School’s emphasis on a student’s ability to make a difference in the lives of others meant that 14-year-old Billy and his schoolmates had the confidence to move from idea to action. Billy‘s class leadership assignment—developed under the Round Square program—transformed the life of Ken, a homeless man.
“The whole point of our project was that the homeless don’t just need money thrown at them. They need a friend,” Billy says. “They need emotional support. The point was to work on a one-on-one basis and have people sign up for the program and that’s happened.”
The students not only got Ken off the streets and into Bridgeland Seniors Centre—a respite for senior citizens who were once homeless—they also sparked a school-wide initiative. Strathcona-Tweedsmuir, in Okotoks, Alberta, is now partnered with the Centre and students visit all the residents regularly.
While the lifestyle change for Ken is obvious, the psychological effect the project has had on students is equally impressive, says director of student life Sarah Wiley. “Kids have said to me, “’Wow, I’ve driven past there all my life and never known what this was about,’ and when they go and they talk to people and they interact with them, it really does open their eyes to the reality of their community.”
“It’s one of the greatest thing I could do!” Darien is talking about the globe-trotting he has undertaken with Round Square, an international association of schools. Darien, 15, who attends Collingwood School in Vancouver, British Columbia has spent time at schools in Toronto, San Francisco and Australia. His odyssey culminates in a trip this fall with three other Vancouver students to Gordonstoun, the rigorous Scottish school that numbers the Duke of Edinburgh and Prince Charles among its alumni.
“I get to meet so many people from all over the world,” says Darien, who also finds time to come tops in math contests, and who won in the provincial tennis championships and co-founded a branch of Amnesty International at his school.