Avery Outreach School capped off its year on Thursday with a lunchtime barbecue before handing out several student awards.
“It’s to recognize the students that have excelled in a couple of the classes with the attendance, the academics,” said principal Rob Merilees. “It’s kind of a thank you to the parents, the staff, the students.”
Avery, which runs from Grade 10 through Grade 12, offers an alternative school environment in which students work in smaller classes and can partake in one or two courses at a time. While it has the same general curricular requirements as Lloydminster Comprehensive High School, Avery focuses more on its students’ personal growth in addition to the educational material.
“Being able to be proud of myself and how much I accomplished this year,” said Terri Bird, who received the Most Improved Award for her academic and social growth throughout the year. “From the beginning of the year, I just didn’t want to go to school at all, and now I got an award.”
We really work on building the relationships,” said Merilees. “A lot of students will say it feels very comfortable here, more family-oriented and a smaller environment so we get to know them very well.”
Those bonds were displayed on Thursday as eight students were called on to accept awards that ranged from attendance record to social and academic development.
“It felt really special,” said Celine Park-Beaupre, who received the Effort Award for completing three core classes and showing outstanding self-motivation. “I’ve never had an award given to me before, so I was really surprised that they had actually called me up there for one.”
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Like Bird and Park-Beaupre, many students come to Avery from Lloydminster Comprehensive High School, where they may have encountered severe academic and personal troubles.
Approximately 120 students attend Avery, which is part of the Lloydminster Public School Division. However, its flexible programming allows students to attend school on a part-time or drop-in basis, so there are often only about 50 students in the four-classroom building at one time.
“It’s for a lot of students that don’t like the big setting, and we offer a lot of support here as well. Every classroom has a full-time teacher, EA - we’re here to build the relationships and help the kids get through.”
Merilees says that many Avery students go on to post-secondary institutions once they graduate. However, it’s the social impact that separates the school from other places.
“This is a great school to be in and everybody’s like one big family here,” said Bird, who is in line to graduate next year and hopes to eventually find a career in social work. “At first I got here thinking, ‘oh I don’t want to be involved with anything’, but now people actually talk to me and I feel like I belong here.”
Said Park-Beaupre, who recommends Avery to others that may be struggling elsewhere, “it helps you grow as a person (more) than you would in a bigger school. It’s a smaller environment to be in so you can concentrate and you can learn a lot more and the teachers actually help you here when you need.”