The Boundless School
Our Impact Why We Exist
The Boundless school has been chosen as one of Canada's Top Ten High Impact Charities by Charity Intelligence.
Recent evaluations on the outcomes of Boundless can be summarized below:
SUMMARY OF FINDINGS
- The project served 192 at-risk students. 77 student spots in the Boarding School (BLISS); and 129 spots in the group program (These numbers don’t add to 194 because there is overlap)
- 129 OF 132 youth completed the group program – two couldn’t finish because of mental health issues, and one because of a drug related matter
- 66 of 72 student spots completed BLISS. Two of six were expelled for “toxicity” and four left for mental health concerns
- The program was executed safely, with zero serious incidents. We logged 247 behavioural incidents
- Boundless issued 279 out of a possible 292 credits in BLISS; and 129 of a possible 132 in the group program
- 38 students completed their full high school diploma at Boundless. Of the rest, 89% have returned to mainstream school full time
- BLISS students’ English grades increased an average of 24% compared to their public school scores; math grades improved an average of 29%. History scores improved an average of 28%. Science by an astounding 34%. Elective credit grades averaged 79 % across BLISS and the Group Program
- Project revenue and expenses were above projections. The budget was balanced
PROFILES OF STUDENTS
- 100% of our students had achieved credits below their grade level
- 89% experienced long term school interruptions
- 44% had been suspended or expelled
- 98% presented diagnosed mental health and learning challenges
- 32% had criminal histories
- 100% reported as low-income
- African, Asian and Aboriginal Youth comprised an estimated 64% of our student population (estimated because we do ask students or families to self-report)
Our Story What We Do
History of Organization
Established in 1984, and incorporated as a charity in 1989, Boundless has served over 17,000 youth and families at risk through adventure based education. We serve First Nation youth, expelled students, youth in the criminal justice system, victims of violence, adults with brain injuries; and people who present mental illness. Our program is delivered in close collaboration with over 40 community agencies in Toronto, who provide staffing, ideas, facilities and support with youth engagement. Ten years ago, we became certified as an independent school, with the added capacity to issue high school credits to our clients. This milestone spawned an era where we are creating an unique alternative high school and leadership program for seriously marginalized youth.
Accolades and Accomplishments
- Boundless has been chosen as one of Canada's Top ten High Impact Charity in 2015/2016
- Winner of the 2011 Community Achievement Award by the Kiwanis Club of Toronto
- Pioneering an alternative education model for Toronto's high risk youth
- Forging cross-sectorial partnerships with the Police, Youth Justice, the Aboriginal community, schools and their respective school boards (TDSB and TCDSB)
- Launched a long term education initiative called Boundless Boarding School in September, 2012, and it has grown 20% annually ever since
Our Programs How We Do It
Boundlessis planning to serve 225 of Toronto’s high risk teenagers in 2016. We are expanding the project by 20%, improving our capacity to meet our Toronto partners’ eager demands to place more challenging teens in our school.
In close partnership with Toronto’s public school boards, probation officers, Children’s Mental Health Centres and the Native community, Boundless shall support young people who have been expelled, possess criminal records and present significant mental illness to attain their high school diploma using extraordinary education methods.
WHY THE EXPANSION?
Our therapeutic approach has become well adapted to the needs of our students. Our award winning academic model engages the most diffident students to achieve success beyond their wildest expectations – a lofty outcome given the severity of mental health challenges they present when first meeting us. Our funding strategy is working. Our school facilities keep improving. We are ready to grow.
Another reason to expand is simply the demand for our school is unprecedented. The Toronto School Boards, especially, want Boundless to work with a greater number of their students, and to offer more year round solutions.
THE GIST OF OUR PLAN
Our education program currently has two dimensions:
1) A Boarding School we dub BLISS (Boundless Live In School) that runs from September to March, where students spend 40 to 150 days earning multiple credits and benefitting from a intensive therapeutic model
2) A Group-Based approach, delivered in the Spring, where cohorts of 10-15 students earn credits in ways that are aimed to them back into the educational fold. Most often BLISS students are chosen from the pool of kids in the Group Model
Our 2016 plan is to introduce a third dimension to our educational offerings in the summer by adding a 2-week adventure based program for credit. This approach would enable Boundless to offer year-round solutions for youth, and their community of caregivers, who often yearn for highly unique education plans and schedules for their difficult teens. We’ll also add another 45 youth, expanding from 180 kids in 2015 to 225.
We shall also expand the range of education and therapeutic options we provide for our BLISS students. This means new health and fitness programs; expanded Math, English and History curricula; providing more support to families and caregivers, and enabling students to stay with Boundless longer. For the longer is the better, a key lesson learned these first four years.
Toronto's Vital Signs® indicator(s) addressed by Program
"In the Toronto Region, 16.8% of the population (15 years and over) had not completed high school in 2010." (Toronto’s Vital Signs®, 2011)
It has been known for many years that the personal and societal consequences of dropping out of school are costly and that young people who don’t complete high school face many more problems in later life than do people who graduate. For example, dropouts experience higher levels of unemployment and receive lower earnings than high school graduates (Lever, et al. 2004). Dropouts are also more likely than graduates to become dependent on social services (Martin and Halperin, 2006), engage in illegal and criminal activities (Caraway, Tucker, Reinke, 2003), and engage in substance abuse (Caraway, Tucker, Reinke, 2003). Many dropouts also experience health and affective problems such as depression (Canadian Council on Learning, 2005). These problems are detrimental to the individuals but also very costly to society in terms of providing them with health care, social assistance, legal aid, and incarceration costs (Hankivsky, 2008).
PLEASE BE INTRODUCED TO TWO OF OUR OWN
DT - Speaking mostly Patois on Day 1, DTs favourite new English phrase is “Free Range Chicken”. He says this describes his life back in Jamaica after both his parents died. He was shuffled about his extended family, and then one day his cousin told him “We can’t take care of you” and that he was moving to Canada. His aunt would pick him up at the Toronto Airport.
Arriving in January 2015, with only the clothes on his back and a scribbled phone number, DT’s aunt didn’t show up. He sorted that one out and enrolled at C.W. Jeffrey’s Collegiate with exactly zero credits – a bright eyed 17 year old who figured that school would be his first move.
But the school didn’t really know what to do with him. They sheepishly called us and asked if we could take a kid who spoke a few words of English with no credits to his name. “By the way, he was just busted for peddling weed”. Not really seeing a fit – starting high school at 17 is no picnic - we agreed to meet him anyways and were quickly awestruck by his charm and his earnest desire to make life work in Canada.
He showed up in September 2015, jacketless, comically unprepared for our Canadian climate. But the rural quality of Boundless appealed to his farmer’s roots. Watching him skate made everyone pee their pants. From the first second, DT was never a problem and a joy to all.
While no Winston Churchill, he is mastering English at a Jamaican sprinter’s pace. He explored everything like a toddler, grabbing musical instruments, paintbrushes and hockey sticks with impunity. He has now covered 40% of his path to graduation. The question begs, do we bring DT back next year to get him closer to graduation? More on this later.
MM – Born in Somalia to an affluent family, JJ belonged to a tribe in the wrong region at the wrong time. His family fled to the U.S. as refugees. His dad remained for reasons still unclear, while his mom brought JJ in tow to Toronto, where they have been residing on social assistance for five years.
Eldest boys like MM are held in especially high esteem in Somali families. MM would recall that he was “the most spoiled a-hole” in his hometown. He claims that his family’s fall from economic grace was the hardest on him. “I was angry, very very angry”. So I started an Internet business in Toronto, and I made a lot of money”.
“So why then, we asked, did you need to steal so many cars?” Always the charmer, MM grinned, “well, you got me there”. This is not the first example of his magical thinking, MM’s biggest hurdle to manhood, in our opinion.
While the staff cringed from a distance, observing MM digest every Donald Trump book ever written, MM’s mastery of numbers and business plans were the envy of all students. He took the school to heart, and completed the 11 credits he needed to graduate.
The world does feel like his oyster now. But we worry for MM. He is a dreamer prone to shortcuts. He is convinced he will pick up on his online commercial ventures, and “one day donate some of my millions back to Boundless”.
What You Can Do
Activities a donation will support
A grant will support the operating costs of this project that aims to serve 225 high risk youth on an annual basis and the issuance of high school credits to youth who have been expelled or are members of the criminal justice system.
This unique program is the first of its kind in Canada. A grant would enable high risk youth to attain their high school diplomas using extraordinarily engaging methods