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Unique program in Calgary schools changing lives for students

Click to play video: '‘Makes me feel proud of myself’: Integrated School Support Program proving successful at Calgary school'
‘Makes me feel proud of myself’: Integrated School Support Program proving successful at Calgary school
WATCH: The benefits of the Integrated School Support Program are immense. The focus on the social, emotional and physical well-being of students has made a profound difference in the two current schools where it exists. Jill Croteau spent time at one of the elementary schools in Forest Lawn where the success is evident – Jul 28, 2022

It looks like any other school, nothing out of the ordinary, and that’s exactly the point. Staff don’t want their students to feel differently here, but what is happening in the hallways is unique.

Holy Trinity Elementary School in Forest Lawn is home to a one-of-a-kind initiative.

The Integrated School Support Program (ISSP) is a prevention-based plan first spearheaded by the Calgary Police Service in the fall of 2014. It helps at-risk children at two elementary schools in the Forest Lawn area by providing them with the necessary supports to thrive both academically and socially.

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Gillian Bowerman works with CPS and the Calgary Police Youth Foundation. She said the ISSP helps the entire school community.

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“One of the things we’ve noticed that is profound is the environment within the school becoming more calm and peaceful,” Bowerman said. “All of our resources are universal. We don’t do targeted interventions because we want all students to have access to anything we provide and have shared impact.”

Gymnasium at Holy Trinity. Jill Croteau/Global News

ISSP offers a positive police presence in the schools, on-site psychologists, physical education specialists, social workers and health clinicians, as well as breakfast, lunch and afterschool programs.

“A big component is ISSP is reducing financial barriers. Families don’t have to pay for anything, the psychologist, after school care, there’s free access,” Bowerman said.

“This is a model, that in my perfect world, would be embedded in any school that needed it.”

Breakfast and lunch program at Holy Trinity is free for all students. Jill Croteau/Global News

“We are talking about the mental health of our children and it’s connected to physical health and the degree of safety and connectedness to school. It’s a comprehensive model,” Bowerman said.

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Eleven-year-old Violet McCloskey and her mom Emily said ISSP made a significant difference in their lives.

“I kind of just felt alone and the psychologist just listened to me,” Violet said.

“She is a different kid altogether. Violet went from this emotional little crazy person and is now this beautiful stable person she is today,” Emily said.

Emily McCloskey and her daughter, Violet. Jill Croteau/Global News

Her mom said her daughter was having some struggles but the school and the on-site staff supported her and changed everything.

“Having a program like this that enabled me with tools it gave her other people and community members who were able to give her the stability component that I needed for her,” Emily said.

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Holy Trinity teacher Raelene Godwin said the program allows them to focus on the academics.

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“If they know they are coming into a school that is ready to support them whether they are coming in hungry, upset or happy and excited, we are here to help them learn and set them up for life,” Godwin said.

“It takes a village and that’s truly what ISSP is, it’s part of the village for us,” Godwin said. “It’s something I feel blessed to have and can’t imagine school life without it.”

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