Wood's Homes Blog

Inside the world of Wood's Homes

June 28, 2019
By Josh Groen, Wood's Homes School Support Counsellor
Inside the world of Wood's Homes

On June 25, we proudly hosted more than 50 people at our Annual General Meeting at our Inglewood campus. Filled with vibrant colours, great food (prepared by YCAP) and the smiling faces of our Board and committee members, partners, donors and friends, the event provided another opportunity to showcase our campus and to hear inspiring stories from across the agency.

Our very own Josh Groen, School Support Counsellor with Wood’s Homes’ William Taylor Learning Centre, spoke about the innovative ways he and his colleagues encourage renewed interest in learning and participation among the students there. He shared many stories of success… here’s what he had to say:

My name is Josh Groen, and I’ve been with Wood’s Homes for over 3 years and working in the field for 14 years. Since joining  Wood’s, I have worked for many of our programs, andd my current program base is that of William Taylor Learning Centre. My job title is School Support Counsellor, but there are so many reasons why what I do is not just any ‘job’… it’s so much more than that to me.

First, I want to tell you a little background on what William Taylor is. The William Taylor Program has three main components. First, we offer students (ages 11-18) who live in one of our programs, a day treatment and schooling program. Secondly, it’s a school for young people living in the community who, for various reasons, have yet to find success in a 'typical' classroom setting. And third, we have two satellite classrooms, one in a junior high and one in a high school, for students who have grown in the William Taylor program and are ready to reintegrate in a typical school setting, while still receiving support from Wood’s Staff and specialized teachers.

The school works in partnership with the Calgary Board of Education – a long, longtime partner of Wood’s. The school building at Parkdale was built in 1982, and was renamed the William Taylor Learning Centre in honor of a retired Alberta farmer named William Taylor, who left part of his estate to Wood’s Homes in 1959 to help the children in the orphanage further their schooling (through what is called the Taylor Trust Fund).

Education is an integral part of the mental health services provided by Wood’s Homes, and aside from the William Taylor Learning Centre, we also have a school on our Bowness campus called the George Wood Learning Centre. It’s been there since 1954.

Wood’s Homes also works with the Calgary Catholic School District to support a specialized program for kids in Grades 1-6, called Starting Points. Starting Points is designed to address behavioural issues among kids, but in the context of a mainstream school.

And until just recently Wood’s Homes provided support to children aged 4-12 at the Children’s Village School in Renfrew. We were there for 10 years, and I know Wood’s Homes is proud of its accomplishments there with so many young students and their families facing mental health issues of all types.

Those of us who work at William Taylor and George Wood provide a safe, welcoming place for students to be able to learn and grow people. By remaining consistent, caring adults, we see students who have struggled to attend, become daily attenders. This is due to the fact that they know they will be accepted and cared for here. We truly strive to make the kids know that we never give up, and through this the kids are able to integrate into a learning environment like they never have before.

On multiple occasions, we have had new students directly ask us how they can get kicked out of our school, as this is what they have come to know in past schools. Through the training and support that we as staff are offered, we are able to weather any storm, and work with the youth and their families to help the students understand that we truly will never give up. By taking away the fear of being asked to leave a school, we allow the children to work on their educational goals, while also receiving appropriate treatment and support for their mental health needs.

We work with about 60 students every day and help them with their personal growth and self-regulation. Together, we build individualized learning plans and encourage them to learn through outdoor education or career and technology programs, such as Robotics. It’s really a therapeutic environment where the students get group and individual counselling, and their families can also receive counselling support.

You may also  know that Wood’s has a Research Department that provides lots of outcomes and data that helps guide the work of all our programs. But as Janet Stewart, the manager of our learning centres, recently said, "sometimes the ‘amazing’ success stories can be overshadowed by the group."

Here’s a couple of great examples from this year that make us proud and continue to inspire us!

  •  We have a Grade 7 student who didn’t attend school at all in Grade 6, but this year showed up every day! If you know this student…that’s an incredible achievement.
  • Right now, we have a Grade 10 student who’s received a record number of credits (a total of 17) -  higher than any other William Taylor student during one year
  • And currently have 3 students who are graduating from our satellite classroom at Central Memorial High School. We feel this is because Wood’s Homes was there to help guide these young people through some turbulent times in their lives.
  • In the past year, myself and a teacher at the school have begun a music program at the school. By engaging youth and teaching them the foundational skills for music, we have allowed them to access their inner creativity and artistically express feeling that they may not feel comfortable verbalizing otherwise. We have one youth in particular who has written beautiful raps about the inner struggle he faces daily between a desire to be a “good kid” and the pressure he feels to engage in gang related activities.

In everything we do at Wood’s Homes we are offering young people an alternative path to success that many have never been presented to them in the past. This is why your support for our work is so essential. Thanks again for listening, have a great evening.