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Inner-city Vancouver youth prepare for epic trip to Mt. Kilimanjaro

WATCH: More than a dozen Vancouver teenagers went hiking on the North Shore today. It’s all in preparation for a major trek next week. Jennifer Palma reports.

There’s field trips – and then there’s what 15 students from a Vancouver high school will be doing next week.

On March 5, students from Streetfront Alternative School will be heading to Tanzania to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain. It’s the culmination of three years of planning and fundraising for the $130,000 trip, and those involved can barely believe the day is here.

“It’s actually happening and it’s crazy. I’m really nervous,” says Savannah Dawson.

“Hopefully I can make it to the summit. Even if I don’t, it’s a really good experience to go to Africa.”

Dawson is one of the 22 students enrolled at Streetfront Alternative, which operates out of Britannia Secondary School. They offer a mix of Grade 8-10 classes and substantial outdoor education to inner-city youth who need a less structured education.

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“If it weren’t for this program…I probably would’ve dropped out of school after i had my son.” said Dawson.

Her situation isn’t uncommon, says Trevor Stokes, a Streetfront Teacher who has helped organize the trip.

“One of [the factors] is poverty, that’s almost exclusively, but also a range of issues. Life hasn’t been very fair, so we’re trying to equal the playing field,” he said.

“We’re good at motivating. We’re coaches and we’re cheerleaders and we get them to show up and do the things we think they need and they start to believe in themselves.”

Stokes hopes the trip to Kilimanjaro is just the first of several dream trips for the students of Streetfront. It’s certainly inspired the students making final preparations.

“It’s unbelievable,” says Emerzon Zuniga.

“We have a lot of emotions every time we take a second on [Grouse] and we go ‘we’re actually going to Africa.'”
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