Leah Sanches was at school on April 27.
Not groundbreaking news for a Grade 12 student, but for Sanches, who missed 72 days in the 2015/16 school year due to anxiety, it’s quite a big deal.
“I didn’t want to go,” she said, of her time at her previous school. “I had a lot of anxiety at public school, and it just wasn’t right for me.”
Sanchez now looks forward to going to Vanguard Secondary, her school for the past two years.
“It’s great,” she said. “It’s totally different than regular school. It’s so much better. There are smaller classes.”
Sanchez is set to graduate this year, and to help Vanguard’s Class of 2018 celebrate their achievement, the east Langley school is hosting its first annual Cars and Crafts grad fundraiser on Saturday, May 12.
Organizers are looking for more cars and donation, and people to attend the event on the school grounds.
There are 35 vendors coming, along with a barbecue champion making pulled pork sandwiches, a full concession, a kid zone, raffles, and a silent auction.
The event runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Vanguard Secondary, 3925 244 St.
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Funds raised will go towards a May 23 whitewater rafting field trip for the grads in the Nicola Valley region.
School coordinator Mitch Quinn says the grad class has grown since the program started: “The first grad class we had at Apex there was one grad, and the last two years we’ve had 25.”
Trauma sensitive environment
Now in its fourth year, Vanguard is a Grade 8 to 12 school that uses the former Otter Elementary building, along with another building to the south of it on the property to teach and guide 160 students, including 25 potential grads.
School coordinator Mitch Quinn said “lots of different kinds of kids come to our school.”
The school is an amalgamation of Apex Secondary and the James Anderson Learning Centre.
When Apex opened its doors in 1996, it offered the only alternative education program for 22 students in the Langley School District.
“Our population (back then) was mainly behavioural kids,” Quinn said. “All our kids were acting out kids. Four years ago, the district had a second alternative ed program, more for kids whose behaviours were more internalized — anxiety, depression, other mental health kinds of issues. They never acted out, they acted in.”
In 2014, Apex and James Anderson amalgamated to become Vanguard.
Quinn said the pendulum has swung “more towards the acting in kids.”
“There are more of those kids in the district than there are behavioural kids, now,” Quinn said. “We’re more now servicing anxiety, depression, mental health, and we’ve adjusted to that. We’ve also become a trauma sensitive environment because almost all of the kids who have come here have faced significant traumas.”
The key is building relationships with the students, says Quinn. “They all call us (staff) by our first names. Every student here has a resource teacher, a youth teacher, and an SEA… so they each have three go-to people at school. You don’t need to work with every kid every day, but each has a go-to person if they need help.”