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Northern students launch courtyard project

Published on

Cathy Dobson

A proposal to create a relaxed outdoor courtyard on school property is still only on paper but is already boosting spirits at Northern high school.

Alexa Soulliere
Alexa Soulliere

“Students have been speaking out for a safe place where they can go just to breathe and take a break,” said Alexa Soulliere, a Grade 12 student and president of Northern’s Key Club.

Pressure at school can cause anxiety, depression and even suicidal thoughts, Soulliere said.

“It’s important to talk about it. We’re really hoping our proposal is a game changer.”

The Key Club’s proposal involves a $98,000 redevelopment of the school’s dilapidated courtyard, tucked away from the street in the school’s interior. For many years, the 50-foot X 100-foot courtyard has been nothing but an eyesore and inaccessible to staff and students.

“We might use it for one barbecue a year,” said Key Club teacher advisor Nick Nienhuis.nick-nienhuis_1

Working with Sarnia’s Ellwood Architectural Design and Sonny Parkes Landscape Arboriculture, club members have come up with a new courtyard plan that includes enough curved wooden benches to seat 100, shade trees, raised gardens and picnic tables.

Students are locked out of the current courtyard but the hope is that a new one will be open throughout the school day.

Northern Collegiate Institute & Vocational School (NCIVC), at the corner of Michigan and Indian, has lost a number of students to suicide in recent years, Soulliere said.

Two have died by suicide already this year, one a current student, the other a grad.

“Right now school morale could tip either way and I think it’s important to get people talking,” she said.

The proposed green space where students can take a break will encourage discussion among students because it promises a safe, private green space under school supervision.

Northern’s Key Club membership is growing because of the project, said Soulliere.

It’s also engaging staff, said Nienhuis.

“Just preparing the proposal and doing the fundraising for the design work is giving us a lift,” he said.

Key Club members took their proposal to the Seaway Kiwanis club, hoping Kiwanians will become financing partners. If materials and labour are donated it’s possible the $98,000 cost will be significantly lower, said Nienhuis.

Seaway President Donna Kelso said the Key Club’s idea could get the Northern community involved in a positive project. Her board of directors will discuss it at their January meeting, she said.

The next step is to take the idea to the Lambton Kent District School Board for approval, said Nienhuis.

“We are really optimistic we’ll be able to make this a community effort,” he said.

“Right now, if I have an issue with a student who may be feeling anxious or in need of a quiet conversation, their only option is to walk the halls.

“This courtyard will be for spares, for lunch, for entire classes to use. It will be a place for everyone to go.”

For more information on the NCIVS Key Club Courtyard, contact Nick Nienhuis at 519-402-3070 or [email protected]

An artist concept of a revitalized outdoor couryard, as seen from the west entrance, at Northern Collegiate. Ellwood Architectural Design and Sonny Parkes Landscape Arboriculture
An artist concept of a revitalized outdoor couryard, as seen from the west entrance, at Northern Collegiate.
Ellwood Architectural Design and Sonny Parkes Landscape Arboriculture

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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