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The YMCA Academy

15 Breadalbane Street, Toronto, Ontario, M4Y 1C2

Grades (Gender):
Gr. 7 to Gr. 12 (Coed)
Main Language:
Avg. Class Size:
8 to 12
Day: 80 (Gr. 7 - 12)

School Address
15 Breadalbane Street, Toronto, Ontario, M4Y 1C2

About this school:


The YMCA Academy is an alternative high school serving youth with learning disabilities and learning style differences. The school's small class sizes, individual education plans, life skills counselling, and experiential learning opportunities support students in their pursuit of college preparation and workplace level courses in a state-of-the-art facility located in the Toronto Central Grosvenor Street YMCA Centre. — Visit school website



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Our Take: The YMCA Academy

our takeThe very heart of private education is providing options for parents looking to support their learner, and YMCA Academy sits at the very heart of that concept. It was founded and developed to support learners with needs that may not be adequately met within other settings. Likewise, it comprises an academic environment in which those students aren’t constantly reminded of their exceptionality. Here, they participate in a community that is supportive, sympathetic, and socially oriented around their personal needs. That, in itself—irrespective of the programs or the curriculum—can be transformational. This isn’t a school for others, making a concession for them. Rather, it is a school for them. That’s huge.

Upcoming Events Next event: April 28, 2018

upcoming events
  • April 28, 20182018 Spring Open House
    YMCA Academy, 15 Breadalbane Street, Toronto, Ontario
    Join us Saturday, April 28 from 11:00 am - 02:00 pm

    Discover The YMCA Academy! Tour the school and get details about our unique Special Education programming during our upcoming Open House event on:

    Saturday, April 28th.
    11am to 2pm

    We’re located at 15 Breadalbane Street, Toronto — in the Central YMCA, near Yonge and College streets and College subway station.

    For more information about this event, call Bonita Ip: 416-928-0124, ext. 0.


    About The YMCA Academy 

    The YMCA Academy is a Ministry of Education–inspected school in downtown Toronto serving youth with learning disabilities and learning-style differences.

    The YMCA Academy is a community offering a safe and supportive learning environment that includes:

    • Individualized Special Education support & Assistive Technologies
    • Small class sizes (averaging 8 students)
    • Career & life-skills counselling
    • Wireless environment with laptops for every student
    • Experiential learning opportunities, including a robust co-op program
    • Outdoor education & year-round fitness membership

  • April 28, 2018OPEN HOUSE
    YMCA Academy, 15 Breadalbane St., 3rd floor Toronto, ON
    Join us Saturday, April 28 from

Principal's Message


Don Adams, Head of School

I have spent a quarter of a century working in independent schools in Ontario, having focused my career on curriculum development and research on learning and the adolescent brain. The following judgment, then, must carry some weight: The Academy is a uniquely impressive school, one that profoundly improves the quality of life of its students, and promises to multiply such improvement as they move on successfully to post-secondary studies or meaningful work placements. Of course, these are large claims, but they are supported by the achievements of our graduates. We have taken approved Ontario Ministry of Education courses and incorporated them into unique programs to meet the needs of our student population. Our goal is to give our students the skills to graduate from The Academy with their Ontario Secondary School Diploma in hand, ready to face the challenges of university, college or vocational endeavors.


Our personal, differentiated approach, specialized programs and individualized use of assistive technology are ideally suited to those students with mild learning disabilities or learning style differences.  Our students typically have communication exceptionalities such as: learning disabilities, autism, giftedness and/or medical conditions that affect learning such as ADD and ADHD which have impacted their achievements in school settings. At the Academy we support our students from their first day of school with an Individual Education Plan outlining supports and accommodations specific to their needs.


The  Academy team is made up of experienced teaching professionals with accreditation in their professional fields. They bring varied backgrounds and expertise in special education, IT, counseling, mentorship, curriculum development, guidance and career counseling, cooperative education, and many others.


Given its history in education, and its wide-ranging social programs for youth, the YMCA connection enhances The Academy in many ways. We recognize that our students can benefit from the “wrap-around” services our connection to the YMCA of Greater Toronto makes possible. For example, each of our students has year-round access to all Health, Fitness and Recreation centres with the Central Y being the facility for all school-related fitness education. Co-operative education opportunities are readily at hand as well. Our students experience school-wide overnight leadership and outdoor education sessions at camp Wanakita and/or Camp Cedar Glen, and access to Canada Youth Exchanges through the YMCA Student Youth Exchanges program, amongst a large variety of supports.


Finally, The Academy has been, and will continue to be, a school in which all students know that they are part of a supportive, safe and challenging community, dedicated to enrich their present and their future. We pride ourselves in our students’ success!


Curriculum Progressive

Primary Curriculum: Progressive

What YMCA Academy says: The YMCA Academy offers a full range of compulsory and elective high school courses, imbued with the school's focus on providing accommodations and assistive technologies and offering experiential learning opportunities and wrap-around support.

  • Approach:
    Focus Special needs
    Academic Special needs

  • Pedagogies and subject courses:

  • Mathematics Equal Balance

      These math programs feature an equal balance of “Traditional” and “Discovery” methods.
      Learn about the different mathematics approaches  

    • What YMCA Academy says: This information is not currently available.

    • Textbooks and supplementary materials: This information is not currently available.

    • Calculator policy: This information is not currently available.

    Science Equal Balance

      Science programs that balance expository and inquiry learning equally will likely have an equal blend of tests and experiments; direct, textbook-based instruction and student-centred projects.
      Learn about the different science approaches  

    • Teaching approach: This information is not currently available.

    • Topics covered in curriculum:

      Subject = offered
    • Treatment of evolution:

      Evolution as consensus theory
      Evolution as one of many equally viable theories
      Evolution is not taught

    Literature Social Justice

      In social justice- inspired programs, literature is not viewed as something to be merely decoded and “appreciated”: rather, it is viewed as a catalyst to social action. Choice of texts tends to favour contemporary works. If a classical text is used, it’s often in the context of social deconstruction: students are asked to critically examine possible prejudices and historical narratives inherent in the work. Like in traditional literature programs, students are often asked to engage in class discussion and critical essay writing, but more time might also be devoted to cooperative group projects and personal reflections. The goal is to teach students to think critically about what they read, while becoming intellectually and physically engaged in the social issues pertaining to their wider community.
      Learn about the different literature approaches  

    • What YMCA Academy says: This information is not currently available.

    Humanities and Social Sciences Equal Balance

      These programs represent an equal balance between the perennialist and pragmatic approach to teaching the humanities and social sciences.
      Learn about the different humanities and social sciences approaches  

    • What YMCA Academy says: This information is not currently available.

    Foreign Languages
    • What YMCA Academy says: This information is not currently available.

    • Languages Offered: This information is not currently available.

    Fine Arts Creative

      Creative arts programs are studio-driven. While historical works and movements may still be taught to add context to the program, students mainly engage in making art (visual, musical, theatrical, etc). The goal is use the actual practice of art to help educate students’ emotions, cognition, and ethos.
      Learn about the different fine arts approaches  

    • Program offers:

      Subject = offered
      Graphic Design
      Visual Arts
    • Visual studio philosophy:

    • What YMCA Academy says: This information is not currently available.

    Computers and Technology Heavy integration

      A major effort is made to integrate the development of digital literacy throughout the curriculum and in everything students do. Digital literacy is understood to be a fundamental skill in the 21st century: it therefore follows, the idea goes, that teachers should find ways to connect every lesson back to technology. Effort is made to ensure the use of technology is meaningful and advances students’ skills beyond what they would otherwise be from using computers outside the classroom.
      Learn about the different computers and technology approaches  

    • What YMCA Academy says: We use assistive technologies in our classes to support students who learn differently. These include speech to text, text to speech, mind mapping, word prediction software, and so on.

    • Program covers:

      Subject = offered
      Computer science
      Web design

    Physical Education
    • What YMCA Academy says: This information is not currently available.

    Sex and Health Education Ontario curriculum
    Topics covered in sex and health education: This information is not currently available.

    What YMCA Academy says: The YMCA Academy, like most schools, understands its responsibility to the community it serves. The school’s goal has always been to help young people connect, feel empowered, and understand their place in the world. The school values inclusiveness and full participation, and strives to create a safe space enriched by a strong and interconnected learning community. Through Ontario's Health and Physical Education curriculum, the Academy teaches about acceptance, self-awareness, and making safe and healthy choices -- concepts that align with the foundation of inclusiveness, health, and respect that our school has fostered since we opened our doors.

    Mostly value-neutral

    By and large, we teach sex education free of any particular moral or ethical standpoint. We try not to impose any particular values or value systems (such as social, political, or ideological values) on our students when teaching sex and related issues.

    Fairly value-based

    Sex education is sometimes taught from a particular moral or ethical standpoint. Sometimes particular values or value systems (such as social, political, or ideological values) are invoked when teaching sex and related issues.


    This includes a range of positions. A traditional approach might, for example, go as far as emphasizing the nuclear family and complete abstinence from sex before marriage. Alternatively, this approach might simply involve placing less emphasis on sex outside of the context of marriage and more emphasis on abstinence. Or finally, it might just involve focusing less on sex outside of the context of marriage.


    This might mean more emphasis is placed on the importance of such things as social equality, diversity, and choice in sex education.

    What YMCA Academy says: This information is not currently available.

    Curriculum Pace Student-paced

    • Standard-enriched
    • Accelerated
    • Student-paced

    The main curriculum pace is non-standardized and is HIGHLY responsive to the pacing of individual students, (via differentiated instruction, differentiated assessment, etc). In theory, some students outpace the default/normalized curriculum, while others spend periods "behind schedule" if they need the extra time.

    Flexible pacing:

    Flexible pacing style = offered
    Subject-streaming (tracking)
    Multi-age classrooms as standard
    Ability-grouping (in-class) as common
    Frequent use of cyber-learning (at-their-own-pace)
    Regular guided independent study opportunities
    Differentiated assessment

    What YMCA Academy says about flexible pacing: This information is not currently available.

    Academic Culture Supportive

    • Rigorous
    • Supportive

    A school with a “supportive” academic culture focuses more on process than short-term outcomes: academic performance is a welcomed side-benefit, but not the driving focus. This does not mean the school lacks standards, or has low expectations for its students: a school can have a supportive academic culture and still light the fire of ambition in its students. It does mean, however, the school provides a less intensive culture than schools with a “rigorous” academic classification, and is focused more simply on instilling a love of learning and life-long curiosity.

    What YMCA Academy says: This information is not currently available.

    Developmental Priorities Balanced, Emotional

    Primary Developmental Priority: Balanced
    Equal attention is paid to a balance of priorities: intellectual, emotional, social, and physical.

    Secondary Developmental Priority: Emotional
    Emotionally intelligent and confident individuals, capable of leading both themselves and others.

    What YMCA Academy says: This information is not currently available.

    Special Needs Support Special needs school

    Special needs school

    Full-time programming is offered for all students which is exclusively focused on one or more special needs.

    • Academic Support:
      Support Type = offered
      Learning strategy and study counselling; habit formation
      Extra support and minor accommodations for children experiencing subclinical difficulties
    • Mild but clinically diagnosed ADHD
      Support Type = offered
      Extra support
    • What YMCA Academy says: We offer a full suite of accommodations for learning style differences, as well as a dedicated counselor providing social/emotional support to individuals and the learning community. We welcome students with a wide variety of learning style differences.

    • Support for moderate-to-severe special needs:
      Special needs
      ADHD (moderate to severe)
      Learning disabilities
      Dyslexia (Language-Based Learning Disability)
      Auditory Processing Disorder (APD)
      Language Processing Disorder
      Nonverbal Learning Disorders (NLD)
      Visual Perceptual/Visual Motor Deficit
      Asperger's Syndrome
      Down syndrome
      Intellectual disability
      Williams syndrome
      Behavioral and Emotional
      Troubled behaviour / troubled teens
      Clinical Depression
      Clinical anxiety
      Suicidal thoughts
      Drug and alcohol abuse
      Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD)
      Multiple sclerosis
      Cerebral palsy
      Muscular dystrophy
      Spina Bifida
      Dyspraxia (Developmental Coordination Disorder)
      Cystic Fibrosis
      Multiple physical
    • Forms of support delivery:
      Support Type = offered
      A regular class with indirect support
      A regular class with resource assistance
      A regular class with withdrawal assistance
      A special education class with partial integration
      A full-time special education class
    • Additional Support:
      Support Type = offered
      Social skills programs
      Occupational therapy
      Speech-language therapy
    • Summary: This information is not currently available.

    Gifted Learner Support No Support

    YMCA Academy does not offer any specialized programming for gifted learners.

    Gifted education: If you want to learn more about gifted education, check out our comprehensive guide. It’s the first of its kind: it covers different kinds of gifted schools and programs, and a whole host of issues parents face in finding the right option for their gifted child.

    Homework Policy

    In grade 12, The YMCA Academy students perform an average of 30 mins of homework per night.

    Nightly Homework
    YMCA Academy 15 mins15 mins30 mins30 mins
    Site Average70 mins80 mins96 mins109 mins

    Report Card Policy

    How assessments are delivered across the grades:

    Lettered or numbered grades9 to 12
    Prose (narrative)-based feedback9 to 12
    Academic achievement reporting9 to 12
    Habits and behaviour reporting9 to 12
    Parent-teacher meetings9 to 12

    Class Sizes Not available

    This information is not currently available.


    What YMCA Academy says:

    This information is not currently available.

    • Sports OfferedCompetitiveRecreational
      Field Hockey
      Ice Hockey
      Ice Skating
      Martial Arts
      Racquet Ball
      Track & Field
    • Clubs Offered
      Astronomy Club
      Community Service
      Dance Club
      Drama Club
      Habitat for Humanity
      Outdoor Education
      Student Council

    Tuition & Financial Aid



    Need-based financial aid

    Grade range that need-based aid is offered: 9 to 12
    Percentage of grade-eligible students receiving financial aid30%
    Average aid package size$10,000
    Percentage of total enrollment on financial aid30%
    Total aid available$300,000

    Application Deadline:
    Rolling deadline

    More information:

    Application Details:

    This school works with other. for processing financial applications
    Please complete the application form found on our website.

    Merit based Scholarships

    This information is not currently available.


    Total enrollment 80
    Average enrollment per grade13
    Average class size8 to 12
    Gender (grades)Gr. 7 to Gr. 12 (Coed)
    Boarding offeredNo

    Student distribution: This information is not currently available.



    Admissions Assessments:

    Assessment = requiredGrades
    Interview9 - 12
    SSAT (out of province)
    Entrance Exam(s)
    Entrance Essay
    Application Fee

    Application Deadlines:

    Day students:

    What YMCA Academy says:

    For students entering our program at grade 9, we do an assessment of English and Mathematics to determine grade level and appropriate placement in our program


    Acceptance Rate:


    Type of student The YMCA Academy is looking for: The YMCA Academy is a Ministry of Education–inspected, alternative high school in downtown Toronto. Inspired and supported by the YMCA of Greater Toronto, our personal differentiated approach, specialized programs, and individualized use of assistive technology is ideally suited to students with mild learning disabilities or learning style differences.

    Student Entry Points

    Student Type789101112
    Day Acceptance
    (Acceptance rate)
    15 - 20 (50%)3 - 5 (60%)2 - 5 (80%)2 - 5 (80%)

    University Placement

    Services = offered
    Career planning
    Mentorship Program
    University counseling
    Key Numbers
    Average graduating class sizeN/A
    *Canadian "Big 6" placementsN/A
    **Ivy+ placementsN/A

    *Number of students in 2015 who attended one of McGill, U of T, UBC, Queen's University, University of Alberta, or Dalhousie University.

    **Number of students since 2005 that attended one of Harvard, Yale, Princeton, University of Pennsylvania, Dartmouth, Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Stanford, University of Chicago, Oxford or Cambridge (UK)

    Stories & Testimonials


    Toronto’s high school for superheroes: The YMCA Academy

    It was a year ago when a piece in SmartMoney shed some light on entrepreneurs with superpowers. Their superpower wasn’t flying or invisibility, though those are very cool superpowers indeed; their superpower was attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, commonly known as ADHD. Like those other superpowers, ADHD can either isolate or empower, and those who have this particular power find it to be either a curse or a blessing.


    Just around the corner from MaRS, in the Education Centre of the Metro Central YMCA at Grosvenor and Bay Streets, I am the head of Toronto’s high school for superheroes. The YMCA Academy is a school for students in Grades 9 to 12 who have learning style differences and learning disabilities, with ADHD often part of the mix. The school’s essence is highlighted here.

    Ignorance about learning disabilities is kryptonite. As our school has just kicked off our 10th year, we have (as a good startup does) quantified our successes here. A school population of students with above-average intelligence, who all learn differently, mirrors that of a startup where the founders have above-average intelligence and learn differently. In both cases, the challenge is in having the work fit the person, rather than making the person fit the work, as is done in traditional schools and companies.


    Young people with ADHD think and move fast in a school system designed to move slowly. Our school fits their needs and challenges, and allows them, for the first time in their lives at any school, to experience success. What has worked well for us at the YMCA Academy is a concept not unfamiliar to devotees of Eric Ries and the Lean Startup movement. Each day, our students place little bets. They work toward success at school through affordable risks—in educational theory, the “zone of proximal development.” For a student with a learning disability, this keeps the cracks in the educational pavement very narrow, as opposed to the chasms that can open quickly in traditional schools.


    I always wondered how superheroes dealt with the mundane. I assume that not everything in their world is exciting. What we—and many other entrepreneurs—have found is that daily exercise is a key factor in a person with ADHD’s ability to focus. Daily access to the Central Y helps keep our students productive and focused during the school day. A daily fitness regimen is also essential for entrepreneurs with ADHD. I know of several entrepreneurs who have learning disabilities and who spend a good portion of their days on a “walkputer,” a treadmill with a computer, which allows them to focus through activity in real time.


    While I would guess that students at the Academy are no more entrepreneurial than any control group of students when they enter our school, they definitely become more so during their stay. We hold two public TEDx events at the school each year; the last one involved student speakers and was themed “The Art and Science of Learning Disabilities.” We have a partnership with Mindfulness Without Borders to teach, help nurture and allow time to practise some of the most fundamental human skills: kindness, sensitivity, self-awareness and compassion toward self and others. For our particular group of students, who often experience difficulties with attention and regulating emotion, the mindfulness practices are very helpful. We also have a partnership with Evergreen Brick Works that sees our students involved in such diverse activities as environmental stewardship, food production and preparation, and bike repair. And this year we will run a competition to have students with learning disabilities design their perfect school. We will all benefit from their ideas!


    Recognizing our students’ superpowers is our specialty; teaching them to harness those superpowers for the good of all is our mission.

    Original Article: http://www.marsdd.com/2012/09/12/torontos-high-school-for-superheroes-the-ymca-academy/


    Parent Testimonials

    Parent Testimonials from the 2015-2016 school year: 

    My daughter started in Grade 9 this year, and it is the first time in six years that she loves going to school. Her self-esteem and self-confidence has grown immensely. For the first time in her school life, she can tell me what she is studying in each class. Previously she was never given any homework or assignments, now she willingly sits and does any work needed, including wanting to study for upcoming tests. Her motivation to succeed has skyrocketed.

    Until his mid-teens, our son struggled with school due to an unidentified learning disability and undiagnosed anxiety disorder. Achievement was elusive despite IEPs, accommodations, individual help from caring teachers, changing programs, changing schools, tutoring, attending summer school, and guidance counselling. Overwhelmed and unable to keep up, he developed low self-esteem and, ultimately, counterproductive coping strategies. Once his learning style differences were identified, we were fortunate enough to be referred to the YMCA Academy. Its small classes, interesting courses, individual attention, technological support, caring environment, emphasis on respect and mindfulness, modern attractive facility, and, most of all, terrific leadership, teachers and staff, made all the difference! They fostered his individuality, inspired his creativity, showed him how to be productive academically, and just plain let him to shine. His last semester was his best ever. He is looking forward to exploring everything that post-secondary education has to offer and towards an inspiring and fulfilling career. Thank you, YMCA Academy!

    After spending her late elementary grades in a special school, our daughter struggled in high school. They just couldn't or wouldn't follow her IEP. Her psychologist suggested a few possibilities, including the YMCA Academy. We visited all of them with mixed results, until we visited the YMCA Academy. Our daughter exclaimed that she felt that she could succeed in this environment and she has - she has been accepted at every college program that she applied to. We are very pleased.

    Really understand children with LDs-learning differences. Compassionate caring teachers who really go the extra mile for their students. Willing to work with parents to get our children on track so they can succeed both academically and socially. Can't say enough positive things about the school and it's teachers! They really care about the kids. It's not just a job to them it's a passion. Every school should share the same philosophy! It's about the kids and helping them succeed in life!

    I am really pleased that my son was finally able to complete grade 12 and graduate high school. I was so appreciate of all the efforts of the teachers and other staff over the many years in trying to work with a difficult situation and help motivate my son to attend. When he attended, he did well. It's about staying power and working on a case-by-case basis. It's also about ensuring the student experience the consequence of his or her actions. I don't think there is another school in which my son could have gotten the education he did.

    The YMCA Academy has exceeded our expectations for our child's high school experience. The staff's enthusiasm and genuine concern for each childs welfare is obvious and greatly appreciated. As well, the opportunities for the students to be invloved in community projects, student exchanges and the in school extracuricular activities further enhanced the experience. I would highly recommend the YMCA Academy, for us it was the best decision that we could have made for our daughter's high school.

    YMCA Academy has been lifesaver for us. My son is more confident and happier than ever before. He gets full support by Staff and Students and has made a 100% turnaround. I was very frustrated with the Public school system and feared my son was going to be a high school drop out but he is trying things he would have never considered before and we finally see a positive future for him.

    My son was anxiety ridden and terrified about attending high school.I have noticed a huge improvement in his confidence since he started at the YMCA academy. He enjoys attending school for the first time ever in his school career.

    The YMCA Academy provided an opportunity for my son to take applied level courses with the support that he needs to succeed. Small class sizes, great teachers and a supportive environment all help to make the YMCA Academy a great school to learn and prepare for higher levels of learning.

    The Academy was THE answer for us. We went through numerous organizations and schools and no one could offer anything even close to what the Academy offers. My child blossomed and finally started to achieve success after enrolling in the Academy. I have been telling anyone who would listen about the great work that the Academy does.

    Our son was floundering in every way at his previous highschool. We have seen him grow in a number of different ways since starting at the Academyt three years ago. He has matured socially, his grades have improved, he has come to have a far better understanding of his own challenges and is beginning to find ways to overcome them.

    Who knew high school would be such an uneventful transition! Our son is thriving academically, socially and emotionally thanks to the passionate, supportive and caring staff at the YMCA Academy, who have cultivated school culture richly steeped in the YMCA core values of respect, responsibility, inclusiveness, honesty, caring and health. We have a happy, connected, empowered teen! Thank you YMCA Academy!!


    Making A Difference: YMCA Academy

    Located with the Central YMCA, in downtown Toronto, you’ll discover a unique and innovative learning environment.

    “The YMCA Academy is a high school for students that learn differently,” said Don Adams, head of school at the YMCA Academy.

    The Academy is a high school of 42 students and seven teachers, which allows for smaller class sizes, and more one-on-one time between students and teachers.

    Inspired and supported by the YMCA, the school integrates the Ontario Ministry of Education’s secondary school curriculum with practical life skills.

    At the Academy, each student is given an individualized education plan.

    “Every one of our students we look at in detail,” said Adams. “We look at how they learn best, what their learning weaknesses are, and we design a program to support their weaknesses and to enhance their strengths.”

    Clayton Dimech, a grade 11 student at the YMCA Academy, has experienced learning at a traditional high school compared to an alternative.

    “At my old school, it wasn’t good for me,” said Dimech. “I wasn’t being treated fairly. I was bullied; it wasn’t helpful towards my ADHD. My marks started dropping. I starting losing friends and it just became very stressful on me. And then I heard about this school and I gave it a try, and it was a such a great change. The Academy has opened so many doors for me.”

    The Academy also includes the YMCA values of respect, responsibility, inclusiveness, caring, health and honesty.

    “I think every single one of these kind of goes back to what we are trying to achieve having the Academy in here,” said Mehdi Zobeiry, vice-president of the Central YMCA.

    In 2013, the YMCA Academy will be celebrating its 10th year of operation.


    By Shylo Adams | Global News

    Original Article: http://globalnews.ca/news/310248/making-a-difference-ymca-academy/



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