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Photo by Mark Newman

Photo by Mark Newman

Amber Aquin, coordinator of the new Y on Wheels program, checks out the 2013 Dodge Caravan that will be used to take YMCA programs into high-needs areas of the city.

YMCA program targets two Mountain schools

 Y on Wheels set to roll into St. Michael and Franklin Road

 By Mark Newman, News Staff

The YMCA’s new Y on Wheels program is slated to roll into St. Michael and Franklin Road elementary schools on the Mountain in the coming days.

“I can’t tell you how excited I am, It’s something that I personally am very passionate about,” said Amber Aquin, coordinator of Y on Wheels that will take some of the programs and services offered by the YMCA of Hamilton/Burlington/Brantford into what have been identified as high-needs areas like the Greeningdon and Burkhome neighbourhoods on the Mountain, along with the Jamesville, Beasley, Keith, Gibson, Lansdale, McQuesten, South Sherman, Crown Point and Stinson neighbourhoods in the lower city.

The free programs offered are based on community input.

“They tell us what they want, when they want it, where they want it and how they want it done,” Aquin said.

The Y has received a $500,000 grant from U.S. Steel to fund the program and to purchase a 2013 Dodge Caravan that will allow them to bring their instructors and organizers to schools and recreation centres across the city.

At St. Michael on Hester Street, Aquin said they will be teaching students in Grade 7 Latin Funk or Zumba dancing, while Grade 8 students will be introduced to yoga.

“Something the kids don’t get in their gym class,” Aquin said.

Ed Bradica, principal at St. Mike’s, said the school welcomes the pilot project.

“It’s something I’ve been waiting for, for some time,” said Bradica, who hopes to see the pilot project expand at the school in September. “We’ve attempted those programs in the past and we’ve had to stop those programs because we ran out of funding.”

Bradica noted about half of the schools 520 JK-8 students are bussed in from south of the Linc and many come from low income families and areas of the Mountain.

“People think the challenges of poverty of only being in the down town core,” Bradica said. “The truth is, it’s all lower the city.”

At Franklin Road School on the central Mountain, Aquin said the Y will be running a six-week leadership program for Grade 7 students.

“Being a leader, communicating, teamwork, things like that,” said Aquin, who added the program includes having the students organize and run a school play day.

Franklin Road principal Jennifer Robertson-Health said the Y program will complement the leadership program she currently runs for Grade 8 students.

“I’m a big believer in students as leaders,” said Robertson-Health.

She would also like to see more YMCA programs at the school in the future.

“I’m open to any kind of partnership the Y wants to do,” she said.

 Meanwhile Aquin noted the YMCA would like to hear from residents, schools and organizations regarding other underserviced areas of the Mountain that would welcome the Y on Wheels program

She can be reached at amber_aquin@ymca.ca

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