For more than 15 years, the Waterloo Region District School Board (WRDSB) Alternative and Continuing Education site in Waterloo has been hosting a holiday lunch for their students, staff and special guests. It’s the one time of year where all their programs come together to enjoy a meal and spend time with one another.

For some, this may be the only holiday meal they will sit down to enjoy during the holidays.

“To me, this time together means a lot because I don’t usually get to spend time with my family,” says one U-Turn student. “Being able to spend time with my friends is like a second family to me.”

Another of the U-Turn students shared, “I have never participated in a meal like this before, but I think I am going to enjoy the meal.”

Staff serving food.

As holiday music played, students filed into the gym and found their place at the tables, while our Alternative Education staff served them a festive lunch of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, corn and a fresh bun. Following the meal, everyone was treated to delicious baked goods prepared by two of the classes.

The importance of this meal for our students is simple: to come together as a family.

“It’s pretty cool that we can all come together like this,” says a U-Turn student. “Some people here don’t have parents, so it’s nice to feel at home here. We are like a little family, we are all pretty close.”

The laughter, comradery and community were clear to see as the students and staff came together.

Vice-principal Krista Tucker Petrick shares that some of her students will struggle with being off for two weeks, as “we are their safe space and constant. Our staff provide a community of safety and support for them.”

Students line up for their festive feast of turkey, stuffing, corn and bread.

In addition to the meal, the staff also prepared holiday stockings for all their students. This year, Toyota Motor Manufacturing Canada gave the program a generous monetary donation to help fill these stockings, along with sample packets from Lush, in addition to gift certificates, personal hygiene products, socks and more, which were generously donated by various community partners and WRDSB staff.

On behalf of the Waterloo Alternative Education staff and students, we would like to thank Hendrix Genetics for donating the turkeys through Nutrition for Learning, a staff member’s mother for making more than 500 cookies to be divided and sent home in goodie bags for their students, Cobs Bread (Manitou location) for the bread, Stockie Chrysler, Toyota Motor Manufacturing Canada, Lush, and the many other incredible donors. Lastly, we want to thank the dedicated Alternative Education staff for, in the words of Tucker Petrick, “making this the awesome day that it was.”

A staff member serves a a student turkey.

What Tucker Petrick wants our community to understand is her students have a lot to give.

“Just because [some WRDSB students] come to an Alternative Education program doesn’t make them any different than any other high school student in our board. Yes, there are factors that bring students here, but they have so much to give going back once they have spent a little time here, once they have seen success here, and once they have had an opportunity to figure out their learning style and ability.”

Tucker Petrick goes on to say, “it makes me extremely happy that we can provide an opportunity like this meal. Watching these students be so engaged in ‘spirit-like activities’ and wanting to help out makes me so incredibly proud of all of them.”

About Alternative Education

The Alternative Education program, offered in Waterloo and Cambridge, provides increased opportunities for student success in a flexible alternative learning environment. The variety of programs provide an educational setting for students who have become disengaged with the traditional school setting. It focuses on student achievement by creating an invitational learning environment in which each student has a variety of opportunities to develop their potential. We do this by connecting students with an education pathway in an alternative setting, and by preparing them to transition to their community school.

A Time of Giving in the WRDSB

As we count down to the winter break, we are highlighting just a few of the generous acts of kindness our staff and students are modelling. From students collecting socks for the less fortunate, to kindergarteners serenading seniors, these are just a few of the amazing things happening across our board at this time of year.

You can check out all of the great acts of giving in our schools (they happen all year round!) by following us on social media and using the hashtag #WRDSBgives.