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When Richard* was first referred to the YMCA Alternative Suspension Program he was an angry young man prone to outbursts. In fact, his behaviour got to the point where he was at risk of being expelled from school. The main reason: bullying. The referral to the program was the last attempt to help Richard get on the right track.
The YMCA Alternative Suspension Program works with youth who are at risk of being suspended or expelled from high school. Rather than suspending youth for a few days without any structure or supervision, students are referred to the YMCA, where they can work on their issues in a safe place, with caring, qualified staff.
Richard’s case was particularly difficult. The teachers knew he had a lot going on at home, and the way that he dealt with it was by acting out at school. He was constantly swearing and starting fights with other students. He even attempted to pick fights with teachers. Despite the best efforts of the teachers, without any support at home Richard seemed to be getting more aggressive. He was at risk of being expelled, setting him up for a lifetime of challenges.
His referral to the YMCA Alternative Suspension program was a start in the right direction. Because of the severity of Richard’s issues, he was actually referred to the program twice, a situation that rarely—if ever—occurs. But the teachers were adamant about one thing: they did not want to give up on this bright but deeply troubled student.
During the program Richard had the chance to catch up on his school work while learning about the real negative effects of bullying—both for the bully and the person being bullied. He developed tactics for how to interact with his peers without verbal and physical violence, and learned the importance of mutual trust and respect. As Richard learned more about bullying, he started to feel remorse. Interestingly, because of his difficult family situation he also started to feel empathy for those he bullied, and resolved to change his actions and turn his life around.
And turn his life around he did. After completing the program for the second time staff started to see a real change in Richard. He was approachable and cooperative, and staff were able to provide him with additional support to help him deal with his family situation. His principal was very impressed by his transformation: not only did his grades improve, getting into trouble was a thing of the past, and he even started to make friends. “I have really changed and things are going really well” Richard said in his follow up meeting. “I feel like I’m finally on the right track.”  
The YMCA Alternative Suspension Program helps youth like Richard so that they don’t fall through the cracks. On behalf of Richard and everyone at the YMCA, we would like to thank CKNW Orphan's Fund and Coast Capital Savings for your continued and unwavering support of the YMCA Alternative Suspension Program
*Pseudonym used to protect identity