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World Teachers’ Day

October 5, 2018 Leave a comment

Trevor and Jonah on Breakfast Television

Trevor was once again a guest on Global’s Breakfast Television. This time for World Teachers’ Day. Once again Trevor didn’t do it alone and was joined with our grade 9 student Jonah. Together they spoke of Streetfront, Street2Peak, marathon running and our fast approaching SHLF Run on Oct. 14th.

As Trevor states in the interview 100% of the proceeds goes to our little school in EastVan! (http://shlf.ca/run to register/donate/support).

Well done to Jonah doing what many people would be terrified to do! You did awesome!! Watch the interview here…

WHAT STREETFRONT CAN DO:

September 18, 2018 Leave a comment

Streetfront has always tried to offer the most immersive and experiential opportunities for our students. This summer we continued this tradition by running an incredible summer school program out of the Hooksum Outdoor School in Hesquiaht Harbour, BC.

We took 18 brilliant Streetfront and Britannia students to the traditional territory of the Kiniqwastakumulth Clan of the Hesquiaht First Nation. Under the guidance of Steve and Karen Charleson and leadership of Mariah Charleson, Alex Jules and Amanda Leo (more to come from her, stay tuned) our students experienced an incredible 8 day immersion in the natural, cultural and physical components of traditional life on BC’s west coast.

The camp was beyond belief. 18 disparate kids all coming together to build an amazing collective. Leaders were born and challenges accomplished. Spectacular day hikes, amazing backpacking trips, kayak journies along the fabled BC coastline, evening beach volleyball and ultimate frisbee matches and the greatest meals a hungry student could ever ask for.

Look at the photos and see what contentment, pride and self-confidence looks like.

It was an amazing thing to witness.

We are currently in the throes of our biggest fundraising cycle. We are fundraising to take over 40 students to Seattle to run the Seattle Marathon on Sunday November 25th (the largest single gathering of high school marathoners at one race). We are also 6 months away from the 3rd installment of our Street2Peak Project. In March 2019, we will be taking 15 students to New Zealand for an amazing physical and cultural exploration. We have only been able to accomplish what we’ve done due to the incredible support of our Streetfront community. Kids that come from our community would NEVER get the chance to explore the world and their own capabilities if people didn’t believe in their efforts. I hope you see in the faces of these amazing kids the hope and beauty that I get to see everyday.

If people would like to support our program (Streetfront; Street2Peak or our marathon program) – the easiest way is to donate online at www.shlf.ca (the charity where 100% of the money goes to us) or to register for our annual charity run at https://2mev.com/#!/events/strachan-hartley-legacy-run-2018.

Don’t forget that early run entrants get the coziest, comfiest, most wicked run shirt ever and a Ron Suzuki led PANCAKE BREAKFAST at the end of your run.

Wilson Whitlock

August 28, 2018 Leave a comment

Hi Everyone,

I’ve written these student profiles before in the hopes of giving people an insight into the kids I work with and the work we do at Streetfront.

Our biggest fundraiser is being held on October 14th with the Strachan Hartley Legacy Foundation’s Charity (can donate directly to them from their website:

https://chimp.net/give/to/group/3612/new?lang=en)

Kids, 5 and 10 km runs. 100% of the proceeds go to Streetfront and the initiatives we run (our outdoor education based alternative program; our internationally recognized marathon program and our Street2Peak Project which is the largest field study project in Canadian history). I hope you find these pieces hopeful and positive. Seems like we could all use a bit of that in our lives.

Introducing Wilson Whitlock

Wilson Whitlock came to Streetfront half way through his grade 9 year. He was one angry 15 year old. He was attending a west side school but things were definitely moving in the wrong direction. Like so many other youth, he was spiraling into an abyss of self-harming behaviours. He would routinely smash holes in the walls of his bedroom with his fists or even his head. His relationship with his parents was melting at an alarming pace. Any risk he could he find, he’d take and then step it up a notch or three. School became a tedious and pointless exercise – the teacher’s thought he was a lost cause and Wilson worked hard to prove that maybe they were right all along. Things changed in February of 2017. Wilson walked into Streetfront and found a school that wasn’t afraid of a challenge.

One of the strongest memories I have of Wilson’s first few days at Streetfront was during our daily PE classes. Streetfront always starts the day with a PE class. 9 am in Gym C is where you’ll find us. Most kids roll into the gym, still dozey from the night before. Not Wilson, he bounded into the gym every morning with a purpose. He’d go straight to the bin of basketballs, grab one and then proceed to either kick, punch or throw the basketball as hard as he possibly could, whether it was towards the hoop, the wall or the ceiling. This was no light toss; this was violent, almost malevolent. The anger was so palpable. There was no interplay with anybody else in the gym. He seemingly had a personal score to settle and this was how he was going to settle it.

Wilson struggled initially with the physical demands of our program. We play a basketball game called bump at the start of every class. It’s a fun, interactive way to start each class but it’s competitive. Wilson’s basketball skills were pretty low and routinely he was quickly eliminated from the game. Same thing with volleyball – he couldn’t resist the impulse to punch the ball rather than safely play that ball with the appropriate technique. All of this was visible, it was public. He knew where he was physically, compared to the other kids. As a new kid in a program, you have to work through this and gain the skills necessary to compete with your peers. If you give in to the embarrassment you never pass that “newbie” stage – you never get to a position of confidence and pride. Wilson was really finding it hard to find the humility needed to improve.

Streetfront is well known for its running program. We’ve created the largest cohort of high school marathoners in the world. If anyone thought playing bump in gym class was intimidating, try lacing up your sneakers and training with kids who can knock off a 10 km in 45 minutes and have run multiple marathons. The first few weeks were brutal. Wilson would put out a valiant effort, only to be heaving for breath and walking 2 km into it. He was frustrated and thought he could never accomplish what the other kids could do so easily. Then one training run in February, a volunteer named Pierre, went out on the run and ended up running alongside Wilson. Pierre’s as nice a guy as there is and the two of them just fell into a conversation as is wont to happen when one is trying to motivate (distract) a new runner. Wilson really took to Pierre’s approach and before he knew it, they had passed the 5 km mark. Wilson dropped his tough guy veneer and allowed Pierre to help him get through this run, so much so that Pierre literally pushed him along some of the more challenging parts of our 10 km route. As he climbed the stairs to the portable, I met him and could see he had something to say. “I did it, Trevor! I ran the whole 10 km!” I knew then, we had him.

From that point on, there was a discernable shift in how Wilson operated at Streetfront. Though he still had a definable edge to him, he was far more willing to talk the staff, to the other kids to allow us a chance to get to know the kid under that edifice of anger. Once he had completed his first 10 km, he was hooked. He was not going to let himself be defeated by the distance. It was going to be brutal but he committed to run a 10 km every single time we went out. He also committed to running the Vancouver Half Marathon in early May. This was a really big step – publicly stating that you are going to run Vancouver means a lot in our school. It means you’ve stepped up and are now willing to put your name on the line. Very few, if any, have ever not fulfilled their intention. Unless you are ready to hurt and fight, you keep your mouth shut. Wilson stood up and told everyone he was going to do this. On May 6th, he completed his first half marathon. A brighter future was unfolding.

About the same time he had committed himself to long distance running, he also got himself a job at the Noodle Box in Kitsilano. He loved being in the kitchen – the pace, the activity and the stress were things that got him excited. He quickly became their most committed employee, taking on anybody’s shifts that came available. He ingratiated himself to his employers and they recognized the dedication and commitment this kid was bringing to a minimum wage job. Soon his duties were expanding and his role and function in the restaurant were becoming critical to the success of the business. He would always come and talk about how he wanted to make the kitchen more efficient, how he wanted to reduce waste and bring in a comprehensive recycling and composting program to the location. All the lessons we had taught him about “being the architect of your future”, “not putting off to tomorrow what you could do today”, “going out and doing something today that most kids can’t or won’t do” were being put in play. I would sit back and think, “if this kid cares this much about a seemingly crummy afterschool job, what else can we get this kid hooked on?”

Wilson Whitlock

 

Now the fun began.

Wilson returned after the summer break super committed. He showed up with almost none of the simmering anger that was ever-present the year before. He was more precocious and more excited about the prospects that awaited him. Within 5 days of returning from summer holidays, he signed up for a half marathon at Garry Point in Richmond. He constantly sought out conversations with others and became a generous ally for many marginalized kids. At the end of each class, I’d find Wilson by my chair, just wanting to talk. He had that hunger that a long-in-the-tooth teacher can sense a mile away. I started talking to him about books, music, movies, philosophy, art – all the things that he knew interested me. I decided then to give something a chance. I told him about a book that influenced me in high school – Jim Carroll’s Basketball Diaries. As a kid growing up in Saskatoon, this book hit me over the head with its vivid depiction of a boy fighting his desire to be an artist and his hedonistic/destructive tendencies. I told him he should read it. The next day, he showed up with the book. Within a few days the book was finished and the exploration of words and ideas had begun. He wrote me an essay about the book and it was brilliant – half autobiographical and half philosophical treatise.

He seemed to like the gritty New York stuff, so I then told him to buy Fortress of Solitude by Jonathan Lethem. This book details a young boy’s witness to the birth of hip-hop in Brooklyn. I knew he’d eat it up. After he crushed that book, I decided to create his own curriculum. I called it My Own Private Education – with liberties to Gus Van Sant. I decided to teach him the books, movies, philosophy that I felt were important for a young man trying to find meaning in the world. He’d watch No Country for Old Men and Clockwork Orange. He’d read Kant and Camus. He’d study Basquiat, Rothko and Warhol. He’d dissect the libertarian tendencies of existentialist writers. He’d gobble up Kafka and his absurdity. He’d laugh at Tobias Wolf. He’d be taught by Public Enemy and Run DMC. He’d be mystified by Buddhism. It became one of the greatest years in my teaching career. I’d receive almost weekly expositions on everything beautiful and challenging in this world. His thoughts and ideas were crystalizing into this beautiful pastiche of wonder and awe.

I’d share the work with his mom and dad and they were in disbelief. The boy, who tried to destroy himself in front of them, was now writing me essays on Kant’s Categorical Imperative. He became our leader on the marathon team – finishing off his first full marathon in late November in the driving rain. He stopped doing drugs and alcohol. His peer group changed – now he was surrounding himself with other positive kids. He joined the Sarah McLachlan Music Outreach Program and then signed up for private lessons on top of that. He became a youth advocate for a drug and alcohol prevention program sponsored by the Vancouver School Board called SACY and would inform parents of how the world of drugs and alcohol operate from a student’s perspective. He reclaimed his love for making art. But without a doubt, the single biggest thing he did, was repair his relationship with his beautiful parents. He was once again their son. He loved their company and they in turn loved being in his presence. The three of them would show up for a report card meeting and tears would flow and disbelief would surround us. Straight A’s. Comments like, “the top student in the class”; “shows a maturity and sophistication of thought that I have rarely seen”; “is the embodiment of what we hope a Streetfront student is”, were everywhere on the page.

He ran another marathon in May but this time he got his mom to run the half marathon with the other Streetfront kids. By this time, the Noodle Box had instituted his Noodle Box Manifesto as I called it and had totally overhauled their recycling and composting programs. He became a vegan in order to fulfill his ethical and moral wishes. He won the prestigious Neil Falkner Award at the Britannia awards night (a 14 day Outward Bound kayaking trip). He won awards at the annual Alternative Schools Art Fair. He was selected to attend an 8-day wilderness trip to Hesquiaht Harbour, two hours north of Tofino. He decided to use his pay cheques to pay for a trip, by himself, to New York. To walk the streets of Jim Carroll, Biggie, Nas and Malcolm X. He went to Broadway musicals. He followed the footsteps of his musical idols. He went to MOMA. He went to Harlem. He went where he wanted. He went because he worked hard enough to earn the money and the trust to do it alone.

Wilson will run 2 marathons and 3 or 4 half marathons with us next year, even though he will now be attending a different school for grade 11. He will be selected to be a member of our Street2Peak Team who will travel to New Zealand in March of 2019. He will return to Noodle Box and give them more effort and more commitment than any high school employee should give. He will look to help rather than take. He will overcome rather than submit. He will read books that others have told him to read. He will find beauty and recognize pain.

He will make it.

He’ll be happy.

Isn’t that how it should turn out?

Please meet Wilson Whitlock. A Streetfront OG

If anyone would like to donate to our program, you can do so at the following.

https://chimp.net/give/to/group/3612/new?lang=en
https://2mev.com/#!/events/strachan-hartley-legacy-run-2018

Matthew Martin

February 7, 2017 Leave a comment

by: Trevor Stokes

Introducing Matthew Martins

Matt would be 28 now. He’d be at home on a Sunday, with his kids. Playing PS4 in the basement. They’d be within an arm’s reach. He’d be behind them on the couch with the two boys on the floor in front of him. They’d be playing Mario Kart. His hand would be tracing circles on their backs, tugging through their Sunday hair, gripping their shoulders as the game progressed. His turn would come up and he’d decline, giving the younger one a chance to avenge his early exit. Matt’s smiling like only he could. Life is good. It’s as it should be or should’ve been.

I met Matt in the September of his grade 9 year. He had come to Streetfront after attending the John Oliver Bridge Program. I used to go with Bill McMillan, the original counselor at Streetfront, to this program and do a slideshow, showing the prospective students what we could offer. Matt was in the audience that May. He liked what he saw, asked a lot of questions (a lot) and the family decided to give us a shot.

He came into a wonderful class, filled with personalities, characters and challenges. I still keep in contact with many of those kids (funny how they are still kids, though they’re 29 or 30 years old) and am so happy that many of them are still close friends. Matt assumed a spot right beside my teaching desk. It’s interesting how certain kids end up in that spot – sometimes it’s intentional (behaviour management; blind as a bat and no glasses; small enough so others can see the board over them; socially awkward kid who needs to be away from alpha personalities), but often it’s entirely selfish on my part – I really like the kid and want to be entertained. If you’ve done this job for as long as I have, you need to take your gifts when you can get them and putting Matt Martins within arm’s reach, was a gift, let me tell you.

That levity saved me. It helped me see what was important with these kids. It provided the clarity my teaching was lacking. I learned from Matt that if I could make the kids laugh and giggle every class, that each class was worthwhile, it had something tangible. We wouldn’t ignore the curriculum but we would enhance the experience. If you ask my students what I do well in class, I hope they’d say that I make learning fun. I hope they remember the smiles and laughs we had. If they do I did my job well, and I guess Matt did his, too.

He was directly to my teaching right. I can see his constantly moving body, arching and swaying as he got through my class. Never one to sit idle, he was purematt-martins2 liquid, gravitating towards the most comfortable position. As constant as his motion, one thing that moved even more was his mouth. He always had a comment. Always had a question. Always had a wisecrack. Always had something for me. He filled the gaps and silences, like no kid I ever taught. What was different with Matt though, was the nature of his comments. It was pure jackass. Always kidding, always fooling. Never mean. Never going after a weak target. Sure it got too much at times, but I couldn’t stop going back to him. We became an unwitting tag-team. If the class needed a boost or some sort of misdirection, I’d go to Matt. I’d look at him and he’d do the work. He would know what we needed and like Karl Malone, he always delivered. Once I recognized how much fun we could have in class, my decision to stay was made.

I can see Matt now, running around playing indoor soccer, trying desperately to keep his oversized jeans up. One hand running freely, the other tugging at the waist of those ill-fitting jeans. He was a good soccer player – feisty and unpredictable. I can still hear his, “Trevvvvvvvvvvvvvv. Why you gotta be that way????” when I’d let a goal slip by me. He’d be running back towards the centre of the court, looking back over his shoulder with a big smile on his face.

His grade 9 and 10 years were filled with growing friendships and good times. Jay Corpeno, Oscar Clara, Jacob Montgomery and Matt had a special bond. Each of these boys was a little bit different than the traditional Streetfront kid that normally sat before me. These boys had a softer side to them. Jay loved art and mountain biking (not a normal combo in this most East Van of alternative schools). Oscar was really tight with his family and his cultural roots. Jacob was this anti-establishment dude who questioned most anything but in a weird neo-hippie kind of way. Then there was Matt, who had a little bit of each in him. He had the ability to fit into any group and just be accepted. Always popular with the ladies, Matt knew how to put on the Martins charm.

Matt finished up his grade 10 year and moved onto Spectrum, a senior alternative program based out of Vancouver Technical. He kept in touch with his Streetfront friends but started branching out and meeting other kids. Matt came back to visit in the spring of 2005. He was filled with the same excitement and energy. He told me about his classes and the friends he had made, about the girls he had in his sights and about the rhymes he was trying to get out of his head. He was really happy. He was making it.

I never saw Matt again. He was murdered that summer, trying to get with his buddies for Canada Day celebrations. He died over a chain he was wearing. He died a brutal death over a chain. That makes no sense. It never will.

I’ve been writing these pieces on former Streetfront students and what they’ve done since they left us. It’s been really nice going through the collective memories and showing others how amazing these kids are. Matt never had a chance to show what kind of man he was going to become; what kind of partner he was going to be; what kind of employee he was going to be; what kind of Dad he was going to be. He was gone at 16. He deserved better. Everyone deserves better.

It’s a Friday and Matt has put the boys down for the night. He checks his texts and sees that Jay’s already at the Pub. He’s got a table with Oscar. Matt kisses his wife and as he leaves he puts his head back inside the door and flashes that Matt Martins smile. It’s a smile that reassures everything. It’s a smile that tells everyone, life is good. We’ll make it. She walks back towards the TV loving the man and looking forward to what will come.

I’d like to introduce everyone to Matthew Martins, an outstanding young man you most likely never got to meet but would’ve never forgot if you did. Take care, Matt.

matt-martins

________________________

Sandie Martins-Toner will never get her son back. She knows that. She has replaced the anger and sadness that latch onto such a tragedy with a commitment to bringing hope and positivity to this world. Matthew would be 29 this September 20th and in his honor she will go out into the community and find someone who needs help. This will be unsolicited, like last year when she walked into a grocery store, went down the aisles looking for whom she thought needed a break, found a young mother and her daughter and then surprised them at the checkout by paying for all their groceries. Her and her husband, David called this Matthew’s Random Act of Kindness. Sandie has a fundraiser going on right now and all the profits will go to this year’s Random Act of Kindness. It’s a fitting tribute to a wonderful young man.

Trevor speaks with The Tyee

December 6, 2016 Leave a comment

Here’s another video highlighting Streetfront and what we can accomplish with our students. Thanks to The Tyee for their continued interest in our little school.

 

CBC The Early Edition – Oct. 14th, 2016

October 23, 2016 Leave a comment

On the morning of October 14th Trevor along with Blythe Hartley sat down with The Early Edition radio host Rick Cluff to discuss the Strachan Hartley Legacy Foundation annual run and its partnership with Streetfront. The 10th Annual SHLF Run happened on Oct. 16th

Click here to listen to the interview that starts at 51:20 minutes into The Early Edition show.

CBC's The Early Edition

CBC’s The Early Edition

Meet the Runner : Emily Lloyd

September 27, 2016 Leave a comment

September 26, 2016

“My other teachers never really took the time to get to know me,” Emily Lloyd, a grade 10 student at the Streetfront Alternative Program told me after school on Friday. “They taught you but if you didn’t understand or get it, they moved on and just left me.  Streetfront’s  totally different. They take the time to always help. And not just school stuff but personal stuff and stuff with family. “
emilyEmily is a remarkable kid. Looking at her, you always get the impression she is about to tell you a very funny joke!

I’m  sitting beside her in Streetfront’s classroom, with images of Lou Reed, John Carlos and Tommie Smith, John Coltrane, Mark Rothko and Patti Smith on the walls.   I can’t help but get the feeling that she needs to unload some personal things.

As I start to ask her questions, her eyes light up and she starts telling me her story. She can’t keep pace with the things she wants to get out. Stories of sadness and disappointment start to unfold. Tales of her feeling insecure and anxious at school, always doubting her abilities become a constant thread.

“When I got to high school things started to really go bad,” she comments. “I never felt happy there. I was in a few classes I shouldn’t have been in and then, with my other courses, I couldn’t get the help I needed to understand the work. Because I wasn’t doing so well in school, I started to avoid those classes. Now I was skipping school and doing things that definitely weren’t making me feel very good about myself. I needed a change. My friend Sierra started attending Streetfront and all she could say was how awesome it was. She was attending 100% of the time, getting good grades and even running marathons!!! I couldn’t believe it. I begged my mom for a whole month, everyday pleading to let me go to Streetfront. She finally said yes and it’s been the best decision of my life.”
Emily joined Streetfront in April 2016 and within weeks her life started going in a positive direction.   “I fit in instantly. The kids and staff encouraged me and made me feel welcome.

Trevor teaches in a totally different way. He makes  learning fun, always entertaining us even though he is actually teaching us.”

Emily quickly adapted to the unique curriculum at Streetfront. “I used to play all kinds of sports but that had fallen off. Once I got to Streetfront, all those good memories and experiences I had had with sports, returned.” She wasn’t so sure about their vaunted running program, “At the start,  running was really hard. I was barely making the 5 k’s but I stuck with it. I then moved to 7’s and then 10’s. Trevor ran with me on my 10’s and he knew how to keep me motivated. He talked and talked and then before I knew what had happened, we were done.”

Emily continued with her run progression, culminating with a Streetfront mainstay – the 18.7 km Deep Cove run. “I was so nervous before we left for Deep Cove.  I had only been at Streetfront for a little over a month and now I was trying to run to Deep Cove. I was really scared crossing the Second Narrows Bridge.  It’s so high. But we kept on running and at about 15 km we saw Barry with the bus. We ran over got some water and that really helped motivate me. The rest was easy.”

Emily was preparing for her real goal of running the BMO Vancouver Half-Marathon in early June. She was plagued with self-doubt early in the race. “I started panicking at 3 km. I was bawling and convincing myself I couldn’t do this. Trevor ran with me and kept telling me to breathe and relax. He convinced me that if I took control of my breathing, I’d be able to do this. He actually was pretty tough on me. He told me I had worked too hard to give up. He said that I’d have to face my classmates as one of only 2 kids to have never finished a race. He convinced me that trying was everything and failing was not an option.”  Emily fought through the inner demons and started to feel strong. “Trevor had to stay with another girl while she used the washroom. He told me to run ahead and never get off the course. He said he’d catch up with me in one or two kilometres .”

Stokes thought he’d quickly see Emily a few 100 metres ahead. When he resumed running, Emily was nowhere in sight.

He started panicking himself, “I stated texting Gord (Streetfront counsellor) and Sierra trying to see if they had heard from Emily. I was convinced something had happened. She either had dropped out, got off the course or was in need of medical attention.”  Stokes kept running for the next 14 km trying to track Emily down. When he hit the Burrard Bridge (2.3 km from the finish) he caught up to Emily. Stokes was in disbelief, “Emily was in absolute control. She was not concerned or anxious at all!!!  She was running with confidence.  In fact she was doing so well, she called her aunt and convinced her to skip out of work and join her mom at the finish line.”emily-mum
Emily describes the moment she crossed the finish line as the “best feeling in my life”. The Streetfront staff speak often of a photo Stokes took of Emily and her mom, “We’ve been doing this so long and for 8-10 years we’d cross the finish line and there wouldn’t be a single parent there celebrating with their kids. But that has started to change and the embrace captured between Emily and her mom was so pure, so tender. It was absolutely perfect and exactly what Emily needed in her life.”
Emily will finish her Grade 10 year with Streetfront and plans to run the Seattle Half in November and then take on the BMO Full in May 2017. That will finish off a remarkable year considering she’s dead set on being selected as one of the 15 students to go to Patagonia, Chile with the Street2Peak Project in March 2017.
“I don’t ever want to leave Streetfront. I’m trying to convince them to go to Grade 12,” Emily laughs. As our conversation ends it’s hard not to think she just might be able to convince them.