The Saskatchewan Heavy Construction Association is not shy when it comes to giving back to the community.
Perhaps what might be greater than its most recent monetary donation is the fact this gesture is sure to greatly impact the life of a young student.
SHCA president Shantel Lipp and board chairman Allan Barilla visited Mother Teresa Middle School in Regina in late February and presented staff at the school with a cheque for more than $17,000.
Mother Teresa Middle School is a learning centre like no other in Canada. It is home to 126 highly motivated and economically disadvantaged students in grades six through eight, many of which live in inner city neighbourhoods.
As a non-profit, independent school, Mother Teresa receives a lesser percentage of government funding of what public or Catholic schools normally do. Though the costs associated with the extras are calculated at almost three times as much to do what they do for the students.
Because students here receive two meals (breakfast, lunch and two snacks) per day and are transported to and from school because these are basic needs that aren’t met at home. A laundry service also is available, and students are given free eye exams, hearing testing, and are driven to doctor appointments.
The after-school enrichment program sees experts in specific fields visit to explore students’ passions like sports, arts and various trades.
All of that comes at a price, however, which is why the SHCA donation is greatly appreciated.
“We are completely blown away by this donation from Saskatchewan Heavy Construction Association and we’re so thankful for it,” said Lindsey Longstaff, director of development at Mother Teresa.
“We want to be able to provide a seamless learning experience for our students because so much of what they have experienced prior to coming to us hasn’t been seamless,” she added. “So, when we’re supported this way by the community that means we can continue to offer those important programs and enlightening experiences like our after-school programs.”
For the SHCA, a program like the one at Mother Teresa is one they’re proud to support.
Lipp is referring to the school’s graduate support program, which is aimed at the Grade 8 students to help them prepare for a high school of their choice. Mother Teresa students that have completed Grade 8 are now attending approximately 10 different Regina and area high schools.
A mentorship team will work with individual students to see which high school would be best suited for the child’s interests and strengths. The staff also will have access to the student’s attendance records and grades to ensure the student is best dealing with what can be an overwhelming experience for some.
Once the student reaches Grade 11, the mentorship team will help the student look for summer employment.
And then comes the task of filling out university applications, preparing for job interviews and other basic life skills like personal greetings, handshakes and business etiquette.
“We try to look for programs that are a little different,” Lipp said. “This is something that is not only going to benefit the local community but what Mother Teresa Middle School is trying to accomplish will really benefit society and the economy long term. Taking these kids out of some of the circumstance they’re in and giving them the opportunity to flourish was the selling feature of the program.
“They’re providing these kids with structure, which is something every kid should have. But when you really look at what the program is trying to do in the grand scheme of things, you’re really giving these kids some valuable life skills as well, skills they might not learn had this program not been in place.”
The SHCA’s involvement at Mother Teresa didn’t end with the monetary donation. The association also plans to participate as a sponsor for the school’s Grade 12 celebration (graduation). The SHCA will match a sponsorship value and pay to have the kids’ families attend the ceremony.
“The fact that some of these kids are still in school is something that we want to celebrate,” Longstaff said. “And we want to celebrate with their families and we want everyone to gather to do that. For us to have that support from the Saskatchewan Heavy Construction Association and other sponsors to bring those families together is incredible. We are so thankful.
“These kids have overcome so much already in their young lives and we want them to be able to celebrate their educational progress and achievements with their families.”
As well, Barilla, a self-taught magician, will return to the school in a different role on April 24 to host a magic show for all students and share in a pizza party.
The SHCA’s involvement with Mother Teresa dates back to November 2017 at the annual convention when a Grade 12 student that had advanced through the program shared her story of overcoming many hardships in life to contractors.
“There were more than a few contractors in the room who took that pretty hard,” Lipp explained. “Not everyone in the room had a dry eye after she spoke. These guys do make a good living, but they are true believers in giving back to their communities where it counts the most.
“Kids, in their eyes, set the foundation for where we’re going tomorrow. Anything that involved children really seems to resonate with these guys.”
SHCA members have been funding the Mother Teresa Middle School individually, while Kelly Panteluk Construction Ltd., in Estevan has made donations to the Children’s Hospital in Saskatoon.
Not only do these donations go a long way to help with the program’s success, but the generosity sets an example of community leadership, which is also an important learning tool for the students.
“This provides an incredible example to our students who they can aspire to be, the kind of people they can aspire to be,” Longstaff said. “Our students are being provided an education that will allow them to go out and serve in their community and give back. So, when people donate their money or their time it gives our students a real-life example to see what it means to be a good community partner, to be a good person.”