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New Frontiers School Board

 

Families and community members have a better chance of succeeding when access and awareness to social services are within their reach. The creation of CLC Community Nights across the entire New Frontiers School Board territory has been nothing less than remarkable, in helping achieve an inter-sectoral family and community support program.

 

What started in October of 2009, as “Community Wednesdays” and held initially at St. Willibrord School (Chateauguay CLC) has grown into school-community partnerships and generated similar evenings such as “Les Soirées Communau-T Haut Saint Laurent Community Nights” (Chateauguay Valley CLC ) and “ les 5 à 7 communautaires” (Valleyfield CLC) both operating since 2014 . The longevity, evolution and transferability of this concept, in our holistic/regional CLC approach exemplify positive collective impact.

 

These monthly partnership evenings strive to establish bilingual themed opportunities, to reach citizens in a family-friendly format. Administered and organized by our CLC Development Community Agents alongside their respective cross-sectorial organizing committees, they are founded on solution-based strategies such as:

 

- free babysitting on-site

- free or nominally charged spaghetti dinners,

- workshops

- interactive information kiosks

- activities for kids all under the umbrella of a “trusted” roof (the school) at one time in one spot.

 

Last year (2015-16) 12 community evenings were held across the school board territory, in semi-urban to rural settings – welcoming at least 100 to 500 citizens at every occasion. Since these collaborative projects started, 8 out of 10 elementary schools have hosted at least one community evening within their walls. The CLCs also purposely brought the neighboring French school boards into this initiative, hosting ‘evenings’ in their schools. This helps increase collaboration and out-reach opportunities for multiple partners and the greater community in general.

 

Yearly, there are over 100 partner groups participating, or approximately 20-25 groups each event, creating awareness about their services. These services range from mental health, vocational training opportunities, single-mother play groups, food banks, municipal services, to just name a few.

 

“Gather people in an non-threatening environment to allow them to meet people and know what services are out there and they get a free meal.” Anick Leclerc, Principal

 

Soirée communauT video

 

The New Frontiers School Board is very proud to have found a winning concept and has been recognized by the health and municipal worlds, with awards such as Prix reconnaissance Volet partenariat et collaboration in 2011-2012 from the CSSS Jardins-Roussillon and the 2012 Prix Communauté conviviale et solidaire from Ville et Village en Santé for the city of Chateauguay, just to name two examples.

 

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The creation of student involvement opportunities for volunteering or showcasing their school-based projects and/or artistic talents has helped open the doors of the schools to the social net of family and community based services that surround it. It has shown to local stakeholders new and old that NFSB schools, students, staff and Community Development Agents have an integral role in improving the lives of families in their regions. With a “true” collaborative project, which dictates involvement, ownership and shared responsibilities by multiple partners, it has helped lead to increased: communication, understanding of whom does what on the territory, subsequent new initiatives and even an increased awareness of the existence of the NFSB schools (for some) by local stakeholders of our fundamental role in the betterment of our communities.

 

There are over 100 community groups ans partners involved in these community nights, the key partners being the Centre intégré de santé et de services sociaux de la Montérégie-Ouest (CISSSMO).

 

One concrete example that happened a few years ago still resonates of the power of awareness: a local battered women’s shelter reminded one of the organizers that, while one evening even if only a few community participants stopped at her table, later that same week three separate women called the shelter, signalling their particular violent situations after learning of their service from that community evening.

 

High school students from Howard S. Billings High School and école Louis-Philippe-Paré volunteer for every Community Wednesdays in Chateauguay - Anglophone and Francophone students working together. Community services are known more by our population which has led to an increase in translated materials into English for local citizens by our community partners. The fact that groups keep coming time and time again, proves the efficiency of this type of event. It has also led to the creation of a resource video of local services

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