Impact Stories

Westbank First Nation – A School’s Out Story in West Kelowna 

Every child’s goal is to have extra time to play, and every parent’s dream is to see their kids happy and secure. Thanks to United Way BC School’s Out program, April, Ryla, and their mom (Jessica), can safely enjoy more playful moments in their lives.

April and Ryla are 8-year-old twins who attend United Way BC School’s Out in Westbank First Nation. They love spending time outside, riding horses, crocheting, and drawing.

Jessica runs a home-based business while her husband works out of town. Having the opportunity to leave her daughters at School’s Out while she wraps up her workday makes a world of difference. “Having a space for them to be after school for three hours allows Jessica to know they’re safe, playing with all the friends they go to school with,” says Nicole, Manager of Youth & Recreation Programming, Westbank First Nation.

United Way BC School’s Out is led by coordinators who want to make a difference; creating a fun, healthy space for building relationships and learning new skills.

“A lot of our families can’t afford sports at all, and I particularly feel that having sports in a child’s life really changes their directory of success. They get all these different skills: team building, friendships, bonding, and they learn how to lose properly. Being able to introduce programs like this to them that might spark a lifelong love for a sport is huge,” Nicole says.

United Way BC School’s Out Program

United Way BC School’s Out Program is designed to support school-aged children by providing them with safe spaces during critical hours between 3 – 6 pm. The program is tailored to foster children’s mental, physical, emotional, and social development in local communities. It sets kids up for success, building their self-esteem by providing the necessary tools to help them be independent, ensure a healthy lifestyle, and promote personal well-being.

“We can make a lot of friends, and we get to play outside!” shares Ryla excitedly.

Playing outside, enjoying nutritious snacks, and having a place to belong during that important transition time between school and home can be a game changer for kids. “They look forward to coming to the program twice a week. They get really excited about it,” adds Jessica.

United Way BC School’s Out Program helps to aid healthy development for children in the Westbank First Nation and around the province, at 180 program sites in Lower Mainland, Fraser Valley, Central and Northern Vancouver Island, Southern Interior, and Thompson Nicola Cariboo.

Kids being kids in healthier families

“We always start the day letting the kids get their ‘sillies’ out. We usually let them go to the playground for the first half-hour when all they want to do is chase each other, make loud noises, and just be goofy,” says Tristan, United Way BC School’s Out Coordinator.

Through the various activities and structured projects that School’s Out has facilitated, kids have gained knowledge, tools, and skills to help them grow and be independent. What kids learn at School’s Out is carried with them when they go home to be with their families, when they re-enter the classroom each day, and throughout life.

“They’re more curious and adventurous now,” says Jessica. “It’s very important to support a program like this. There are so many good things for the kids and for the parents in having such a wonderful program.”

Happy childhood for stronger communities

United Way BC School’s Out is working to support families who would not otherwise have access to quality after-school programming. “It’s really changing people’s lives. It’s helping our young families in the community strive. It’s just a little bit of extra time to get the house in order after school, or grocery shop, but it alleviates any more stress so that the kids come home to a happy environment,” Nicole adds.

After-school programs are generally unaffordable for many racialized, Indigenous, and marginalized families living in underserved communities. This can lead to learning loss, increased anxiety and stress, as well as behavioural challenges.

Over the last few years, learning loss has increased despite the best efforts of teachers, parents, and students themselves. Children coming from lower-income households or who are facing barriers in other ways are not able to recover from learning loss as quickly or easily as their peers.

All children deserve a chance to reach their full potential. Thanks to donors like you, over 6,000 children participated in United Way BC School’s Out programs throughout the province.

More kids like April and Ryla need a chance to just be kids. “The little we can give improves their lives more than we will ever know,” says Nicole. United Way BC provides safe, accessible programs and activities that help kids develop friendships, build confidence, and learn new skills.

United Way British Columbia School’s Out Summer Programs are helping children be all that they can be.

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