Nanaimo students speak up about proposed school cuts

Child, youth and family support workers "change bad days to good days" and "teach us to cope," Nanaimo school trustees heard Monday.

Child, youth and family support workers “change bad days to good days” and “teach us to cope,” Nanaimo school trustees heard Monday.

Support workers read out letters from elementary students, while several secondary school students spoke against the proposal to eliminate the child, youth and family support worker service in elementary schools. School counsellors would assume the duties of the support workers if the strategy is approved.

The above comments from elementary school students were read out by child, youth and family support worker Tabitha Smith.

The secondary students revealed private details of their lives and the News Bulletin agreed not to publish their names.

Elementary school life was hard for one Grade 10 girl – she was bullied, her parents separated and there was violence at home. She lived with a foster family for a time while those issues were sorted out.

She found joy and hope in her life when she started talking to support workers and counsellors in secondary school. They taught her how to handle bad situations, how to live a healthier lifestyle and conflict resolution skills.

She wonders if she would even be alive today if not for the help of the support worker.

“Maybe I would not be in school,” she said. “Or if I was in school, I would not be one of the good kids.”

A Grade 11 boy talked about his struggles to cope with a turbulent family situation and a relationship that ended badly – all while trying to adjust to high school life.

He made several suicide attempts and when he ended up in hospital, a support worker drove out to visit him and took his friends to visit so he would see he was not alone.

Another girl talked about the help she received from the support worker in learning to deal with bullies – she has a learning disability and has same-sex parents, which made her a target, she said.

She has several siblings who are still in elementary school and worries they won’t have access to the same support she had.