Everyday I try and get kids to go back in time. To go back to when there was a motivation to explore and play. When our mom’s would have to yell from the front step, “TREVOR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! IT’S SUUUUUUPPPERRRRRRR!!!!” and interrupt that basketball game which was THE most important thing in the world. I hope my kids don’t want to come in when the sun starts to set. I hope they long to stretch that basketball game until their fingers bleed and the neighbours are telling them to kindly knock it off.
I’ve been teaching at the Streetfront Alternative Program for 17 years. Streetfront is a small stand-alone school, attached to Britannia Secondary, that teaches struggling kids from grades 8 to 10. We use a very unique curriculum to try and reignite the passion and energy of these kids – 40% of every day is spent on high energy physical fitness (daily PE classes; mandatory running program; 30+ out-trips per year; 3 camping trips; 2 backpacking trips; judo; etc.…) and the other 60% is spent on rigorous academics. We’ve been highly successful over the years. Our running program morphed into a marathon program and for the past 16 years, we have been training 12-17 year old kids to run full and half marathons. Our training schedule is built around the Seattle Marathon in late November (gives us 3 full months to get those legs in shape), the Vancouver Marathon in early May and the Scotia Half Marathon in Vancouver in late June. We’ve completed over 300 full and half marathons in those 17 years, making Streetfront home to the largest cohort of high school marathon runners in the world.
Then, in 2013 we decided to leverage the gains we had made to attempt something even bigger. We created something called the Street2Peak Project. The Street2Peak Project is the largest field study project in Canadian high school history. We will take 15 youth every 2 years to a different continent and engage in a rigorous exploration of the country's wilderness. Embedded in this project will be a profound cultural component where these 15 students will get to share their unique world vision with students from different countries and cultures. We will create opportunities for our students, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, to participate in a global conversation about what it means to be a student in such a highly complex and inter-related world. Our students have rarely been outside of the Vancouver, let alone leaving the country. We will open their eyes, hearts and minds to a world that they would otherwise be barred from.
In 2015, with our 1st instalment of the Street2Peak Project, we became the first school in Canadian history to travel to Africa and climb Mt. Kilimanjaro. The experience was incredible for all involved. We are in the midst of training for our next Street2Peak Project – Patagonia Chile in March 2017. We will once again be the first Canadian school group to trek through the infamous Torres del Paine National Park and then embark on physical, social and community based activities throughout the southernmost part of South America. The trek will take us 6 days, then will spend 4 days in the southernmost city in the world, Puntas Arenas, visiting schools, meeting with elders and community leaders, exploring their most unique of landscapes. Our students will get to smell, touch, taste, feel and hear what this remote region of the world is really like. We will be immersed in traditional Chilean culture. It will be the experience of a lifetime.
We leave for Patagonia on March 11th. The students are training rigorously with the traditional Streetfront fitness model; supplemented with 7 Saturday hikes of 20+ km with fully loaded backpacks. We’ve secured passports for all 15 students, which trust me, was probably more difficult than the trek we are about to embark on. Inoculations are scheduled for this week. A member of our Street2Peak Kilimanjaro Team will be conducting a mental health workshop for all participants to help prepare them for what will be in store. Team shirts are going to the printers this week. Tents, backpacks, sleeping bags and sleeping pads are all being sourced out this week. Team jackets need to get our Street2Peak logo on them. A meeting with the whole team and their families will take place early next week. Dozens of phone calls and hundreds of emails will be racing down to Chile and back, finalizing the last minute details of all the internal transportation, accommodations, day trips and school visits. Needless to say, there’s a lot to get done but we are up to the challenge.
We hope that Street2Peak will help these students find that inner child that we all seem to say goodbye to as we age. If we do this right, it will just be the start of an entire lifetime filled with adventure and awe.
If you would like to donate or find out more about Streetfront or the Street2Peak Project, you can follow Streetfront and Street2Peak on the following websites:
Thanks for reading. Trevor Stokes Teacher - Streetfront