Project BAN Inspires New Path to Education

Erin Meadows and John Fraser S.S. leading education in health and wellness

By Kristian Partington

The relationships built in early 2015 when a dozen high school students came together with residents of the Village of Erin Meadows in Mississauga in a quest to combat ageism has inspired a new path of learning for future students.   

Group photo of residents and high school students

Project BAN (Ban Ageism Now) was the brainchild of students from John Fraser Secondary School (J.F.S.S.) in response to a pilot program with an Ireland-based organization called Young Social Innovators, launched at their school to inspire young people in the realm of social innovation. The group decided to combat the stereotypical views that lead to the discrimination of older adults by connecting with the residents of Erin Meadows and describing for others what they learned.

The team was rewarded with the first ever Young Social Innovators Canada Award and, more importantly, discovered for themselves the wealth of wisdom that lies in the minds and hearts of older adults. The successful partnership between J.F.S.S. and The Village of Erin Meadows has now evolved into future opportunities for students who have been accepted into the Specialist High Skills Major (SHSM) program in Health and Wellness. Thanks to the dedication of team members at Erin Meadows like recreation director Sami Kermani, as well as the support of J.F.S.S. principal Mary Nanavati, the village will be a forum for experiential learning for students who are interested in careers related to health and wellness.

The success, says teacher and program facilitator Namita Parmar, was far beyond what anyone imagined when Project BAN was first conceived, which is why the school decided to continue with the principles it first inspired.

“We were really passionate about our work and the outcomes of the project,” Namita says, reflecting back on last year’s evening presentation event that brought the students and residents together with families to share stories about their experience. “The students really made a lasting impression on their residents and vice versa – it was very emotional and inspirational so from there, we wanted the project and the partnership between JFSS and the village to continue.”

And so it was that 12 students once again came to the village this year for weekly visits with resident, each learning from the other in the deepening bonds of friendship.

“They really looked forward to making those connections,” Namita says of the students in the program. “It was really eye-opening for them – you’ll hear them say it was a life-turning experience for them and they want to be a part of it again next year. It was nice to see how the students grew in terms of showing their own maturity.”

Erin Meadows resident David Kent participated in the program last year and played an important role in the facilitation of the latest program. He says the depth of commitment shown by the students was an inspiration and, as a former educator, he could appreciate how much they grew over the course of the program. He points to one student who seemed somewhat shy in the beginning and eventually would lead the evening of the final gala as master of ceremonies.

“We had two or three students say their lives were changed,” David says, and he was happy to host return visits from the students he paired with last year who have now moved on to university.

Now that the SHSM program in health and wellness has been approved, David and his fellow organizers hope more young people will follow the path paved by the students at John Fraser S.S. and explore opportunities in the health and long-term care sector.