Posted 04/12/2018 2:44:13 PM by Sarah Hillifer

In November, a bright young woman named Liz who plays on the high school field hockey team was referred to the YMCA Alternative Suspension program after she was suspended for punching a girl after one of their games. The program, generously funded by the government of British Columbia, Rogers, Coast Capital Savings and YMCA Strong Kids donors, takes in students who have been suspended from school and works with them to develop the tools they need to succeed in school. Many have been victims of bullying or have been bullies themselves.  

In this case, Liz had an ongoing conflict with the student in question, and for some reason it had escalated to violent behaviour.  This was a complete surprise to the school staff, as Liz comes across as a very confident and together young woman.  

When Liz arrived at the program she had an immediate rapport with one of the staff. During the program she confided that her life at home is very tumultuous and that coming to school provided no relief, as she had been bullied all throughout middle school.  

As the program progressed she started to realize that she was holding in some deep anger and resentment because of what was going on at home. She understood and acknowledged the tough time she had in middle school. The staff helped her develop strategies for how to react to her peers and what do to when she’s struggling to keep it together.  She thought about some of the obstacles she may face when going back to school, and developed tools to deal with them.  “I’m learning to take responsibility for how I act, and not let things happening at home become an excuse for acting out.” Liz shared.  “If I was able to take responsibility for my words and actions, this wouldn’t have happened,” she continued.  Liz now has some options and a plan in place for when she starts feeling angry. She has a trusted adult in the school that she can turn to and has been connected to an external counsellor.  

During her time in the program, she also worked really hard on completing her school work, which made transitioning back to school much easier. At a follow up meeting, staff found out that Liz is back to playing field hockey and has developed a trusting relationship with an adult at school, who she feels confident in turning to for guidance. She still sees an external counsellor to help her . “She hasn’t acted out or been involved in any incidents of bullying since being in the program,” said one of the YMCA youth workers. “Things are going really well!”  

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