Onsite High School

Our youth have often had their education interrupted by the circumstances that led them to become homeless. We have an in-house school for youth who would like to continue their education with us. We offer both high school credits for younger youth and adult education classes for older youth. Youth aged 16 to 20 can earn credits in compulsory subjects – English, math, science and social sciences – to enable them to reintegrate into a community school. Youth aged 21 to 24 can work towards their GED, the Ontario high school equivalency degree. The flexible and supportive learning environment helps students build the confidence to succeed. It is open to residents and non-residential youth.

The youth who come to the bright, comfortable setting are self-motivated and often recognize our school as their chance to get back on track and feel like a regular kid. When students choose this school, they are investing in their future, and are accepting the challenge of staying in school while living on their own.

Our school, which is called Sheppard Centre High School – McGill Campus, is a partnership between Covenant House and Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB). Covenant House provides the facilities, food, an educational support worker and computer maintenance, while TCDSB provides Ontario certified teachers, computers and teaching materials. Our school staff work very closely with the youth workers at Covenant House. Teachers are always a part of team meetings to discuss the progress of students staying with us.

Our kids have had very interrupted and often negative experiences at other schools, but here we are very successful at helping youth build the confidence in themselves to return to community schools.”
– Eileen, English Teacher

Independent learning

Youth work independently on their coursework with the support of our full-time teachers.

Because of the wide range of abilities and course levels in each class, the teachers mostly split their time customizing coursework, grading and tutoring students individually. Some students may be well below grade level, while others have university in their sights.

The goal of our students is to complete credits, then to transition back to a community school. We facilitate transferring students back to a high school that is close to their home and suits their needs. While we can graduate students, we usually aim to have their local school appear on their graduation certificate. Even if a student only needs one or two credits to graduate, we will often work with their home school to ensure that the student’s credits are transferred.

Redefining potential

Since youth at our school come on their own terms when they are ready, they are empowered to redefine their potential. Most of the students at the school have had their education interrupted by street life, family stress, learning disabilities, mental health issues or other factors. They also might have had difficulty within a traditional school, with less personal attention and social pressures. The environment and learning model at our school is so different that our teachers are often surprised to learn that their focused, independent student once struggled with behavioural issues or ADHD.

Our education support worker counsels youth to ensure that their schooling needs are met. He creates new plans with students who are struggling to meet their objectives. He also facilitates life skills workshops like nutrition, budgeting and managing anger. Frequent field trips, extra-curricular classes and guest speakers enrich the school experience.

Our difference

Young people under intense life pressures can find themselves at the mercy of unpredictable forces, so we try and support them through their challenges. They can enroll any time of year and all their work is kept. As opposed to a full course load, students take one to three credits at a time until they are completed. This offers not only a sense of accomplishment and a feeling of progression, but is very practical for youth with self-esteem issues and demanding life schedules.

Some youth stop attending due to the external stresses and challenges in their lives. Our school is structured in such a way that youth can come back and pick up their coursework exactly where they left off. Remarkably, many of them choose to come back, because they know our doors are always open.

Food for thought

All of our non-residential students receive a nutritious breakfast and lunch every day in the student lounge. Our students often live in impoverished situations in the community and many of them arrive at school hungry. Making sure they are fed is one of many hurdles we try to remove for our students so that they can focus on their class work.

Our student lounge has become a popular place for youth to unwind and find focus before the school day begins. We also have a gym for recreation.


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