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Alternative students set lofty goals with Africa trip 0

By David P. Ball, 24 hours Vancouver

Streetfront alternative students Brandon Kaine (left) and Alannah Wong (centre) talk about fundraising for their Street2Peak trip to Tanzania before running laps around Britannia Secondary's track Thursday. (CARMINE MARINELLI/24 HOURS)

Streetfront alternative students Brandon Kaine (left) and Alannah Wong (centre) talk about fundraising for their Street2Peak trip to Tanzania before running laps around Britannia Secondary's track Thursday. (CARMINE MARINELLI/24 HOURS)

Before Brandon Kaine joined Britannia Secondary's Streetfront program for at-risk youth, he was having “problems” focusing in class and understanding his teachers.

Now, the 15-year-old is running local marathons as he prepares to join his classmates in climbing Tanzania's Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa's highest peak. Their Street2Peak field trip will also visit a coastal slave port and the Serengeti.

“It'll show how us alternative kids aren't just some bad couple of kids who made mistakes,” Kaine said. “We have purpose and the capability of running up this big, huge mountain all the way in Africa.”

The biggest challenge of all might be the trip’s hefty price tag — $160,000 must be fundraised from the public.

Britannia school has some of the most financially disadvantaged students in Vancouver, and in a time when most schools struggle to fundraise for basic supplies to benefit an entire school, officials defended organizing such an expensive trip for just 18 students.

“That's cheap if we're talking about a life-changing experience for a large group of people,” Britannia vice-principal Andrew Schofield told 24 hours. “They'll be talking about it with their families and with their little brothers and sisters for their lifetimes — that can interrupt the whole inter-generational transfer of trauma that many people in our community have been through.”

For Trevor Stokes, the program's teacher, the goal is to motivate the students towards “amazing things,” and that one hope is the youth will become leaders in their communities and inspire others.

“There's probably not a loftier goal than getting to the highest peak in Africa,” he said.

Alannah Wong, 16, is also readying herself to climb the 5,895-metre peak. She said before starting in Streetfront, she “had almost given up,” and wasn't able to commit to anything for very long.

“I certainly wouldn't have seen myself climbing a mountain in Africa” she said. “I'll always have it as something to keep myself moving.”

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