Students who felt marginalized come into their own

An in-school silk-screening venture is enabling a group of students to master required competencies— and build on GOAL’s twin pillars: self-knowledge and career awareness.

The “T-Shirt Factory” at Philemon Wright High School in Gatineau owes its existence to a chance comment made by a student in the Work-Oriented Training Path’s Prework Training program. She told vice-principal Julie Fram-Greig that her class didn’t feel that they fit in or had a place in the school.

“Students have ownership of something important to the school.”

“That really bothered me,” says Julie, who knew that some of these same students were also very anxious about going on the work placements that are essential to their program. And it got her thinking. The school had some silk-screening equipment left over from the old technical programs. Why not use funds available for WOTP to get the equipment recalibrated and back into use?

Youth worker/behaviour technician, Ilona Jones, took on the task early last September. Under her guidance, Prework students set up a production space and learned to operate the equipment. By the end of September, in time for Philemon Wright’s annual “Spirit Day” celebration, they had silk-screened 1,000 t-shirts for the entire school population. They have since handled several additional orders and produced a pamphlet for other Western Québec schools outlining their at-cost services. They have learned to work safely, deal with suppliers and organize distribution—all skills that dovetail with work-placement competencies.

“This has turned their year around completely,” says Julie. “The students have ownership of something important to the school and the experience has given them the confidence to complete outside work placements.”

Spreadsheets in math class

Through their T-Shirt Factory experience, students are gaining confidence and acquiring essential competencies.

Through their T-Shirt Factory experience, students are gaining confidence and acquiring essential competencies.

Now that she knows that the T-Shirt Factory is viable and the kids are interested, Julie envisages linking its operation directly to the curriculum in such courses as ““Introduction to the World of Work” and “Preparation for the Job Market.” She can see students creating spreadsheets in math class to track orders.

She credits Ilona’s ability to connect with her students for much of the experiment’s success. “Ilona understands what level of support they need, teaches them and then lets them go do it.”

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