Penticton Secondary School students Sebastian Bakker

Penticton Secondary School students Sebastian Bakker

Penticton teacher making school work

Changing tires and painting fences isn’t what most students sign up for in high school, but there’s a small group making the most of it

Changing tires and painting fences isn’t what most students sign up for in high school, but there’s a small group in Penticton that’s making the most of the opportunity.

Seventeen kids enrolled this year in the Career Transitions 10-12 class at Penticton Secondary School, where their lessons range from vehicle maintenance to citizenship skills.

“Ultimately, it’s trying to find students who excel in this kind of learning environment and don’t necessarily excel in a reading-writing, sitting-at-a-desk kind of environment,” said teacher Kevin McGifford.

Students attend class every other day throughout the year and pick up training along the way, such as first-aid certification, which will help them enter the workforce. But that requires cash, and the kids have to work for it.

McGifford expects it will cost $1,800 for the entire class to enrol in the first-aid course.

To help raise funds, they’ve  learned basic automotive services, like how to put on winter tires and do oil changes, and now perform the work for school staff under near-real-world conditions.

“Sometimes we’ll put a directional tire on the car the wrong way, but the principle of it is if the staff member’s not happy with the work the students have done, they bring it back and there’s no donation made to the program until they’re happy with it,” McGifford said.

Besides hands-on skills, the kids also learn about contributing to their community.

To do that, they’ve partnered with  a kindergarten class at Uplands Elementary and done arts and crafts with their little buddies.

“It was actually pretty fun,” said Sebastian Bakker, 16.

“We thought there were going to be crazy little kids everywhere, but they were actually pretty calm.”

Bakker, who’s in Grade 11 and enrolled in Career Transitions for a second straight year, said the work has helped him relate to others.

“I found it really helpful for my life last year,” said Bakker.

“It was really good for me to learn how to meet people and talk to other people that I don’t really know well.”

The students have also adopted a stretch of KVR Trail near Skaha Lake Middle School where they’re battling graffiti artists who have repeatedly tagged a fence they’re trying to restore with fresh paint.

“Someone (graffitied) over it again, so we had to paint it again,” said Cole Lowe, 14.

“I knew it was going to happen,” he added. “I wasn’t that surprised.”

Lowe, a Grade 10 student who’s considering a career in the military, has enjoyed his time in McGifford’s class.

“He really helps me out a lot,” Lowe said. “He’s more into, like, what we think. He’s always asking us questions or asking what we think.”

McGifford, who helped create Career Transitions three years ago, is just happy to see students expand their horizons.

“My underlying belief is the more connections these students have with people who are not teachers or parents, the more success they’ll have once they graduate,” he said.