After celebrating the first school retention week a couple of weeks ago, Verdun has proclaimed a second one to take place next month.
This one is called the Verdun adult learners’ week and it will take place from the 13th until the 17th of April. The creation of this event follows the refusal of the education ministry to proclaim a Quebec-wide adult learners week for 2015.
“When you return to finish school as an adult, it’s an important gesture that deserves marking,” said Verdun Mayor Parenteau during the March council meeting.
Parenteau and the other councillors recognize the importance of staying in school and the struggle to return to school when you don’t, in part because two important community groups that combat the drop-out rate across Montreal are neighbours.
L’Ancre des Jeunes (Anchor for Youth) and Toujours Ensemble (Always Together) are both based in Verdun.
The two charities offer homework assistance for immigrant families, day services to provide training to get back into school and phycho-social assistance to help parents and students cope. Both struggle to fund as many services as Montreal’s southwest district needs.
“There are 55 young people dropping out of school every day in Quebec,” said Daphné Mailloux Rousseau, the executive director of l’Ancre des Jeunes. “When we count every community organization that serves them, together we can only serve 300 people. In six days, our resources are already full.”
Both organizations set up celebratory events to mark the Quebec-wide school retention week last month. Toujours Ensemble invited local politicians—including Sterling Downey from the Verdun borough and Caroline Varin from the Marguerite Bourgeoys schoolboard—to help with homework on the Tuesday. They also set up a tent in the basement to provide a quiet space so that students could tape segments about what they want to be when they grow up.
In addition to a local wall of fame in their centre, L’Ancre des Jeunes held a mentoring cocktail in Academie Culinaires in the Old Port on the Thursday. Their goal was to encourage businesses to mentor each other and youth business owners about the challenges faced by Quebec society due to the high drop-out rate. The meeting was also a first step in figuring out how to franchise their model to every borough.
L’Ancre des Jeanes also held their annual fundraising gala last month, with a show by comedian Jérémy Demay.
Toujours Ensemble’s $35 for 35 years campaign continues until the end of their 35th year on March 31.
(This article appeared on page 7 in the City edition of The Suburban last Wednesday, March 11.)