For six consecutive weekends, social service professionals and adult volunteers accompany 40 participants in snowboard lessons at Tabor Mountain Resort. All transportation, lift passes, instruction, outerwear and equipment is provided. While there is no financial cost for participants, there is an expectation: to participate, to try and to try again.
We target local "at-risk" young people who would not otherwise have the opportunity to ride. Certainly our definition of "at-risk" is broad. All of our snowboarding students are of a low-income demographic and facing multiple barriers: in conflict with the law; drug and alcohol misuse; mental health treatment; residential care; homelessness; sexual exploitation.
Youth participants are enrolled in snowboarding lessons with adult "chaperones": social workers, SD 57 support workers, drug and alcohol counselors, mental health workers and residential care providers. We operate on Saturdays and Sundays, January to March, in cohorts of roughly 20 youth participants. Accompanying each cohort, we enlist 5-9 social service professionals, 4 CASI certified Snowboard Instructors, 2 Switch program coordinators, 2 adult community volunteers and a bus driver! Participating chaperones are required to engage in all activities throughout the day, including snowboard lessons.
Since the inception of the program in 2006, a number of businesses have generously donated to the project. Diversified Transportation Ltd. kindly donates all transportation annually and The City of Prince George provides a safe storage and meeting area. This program operates solely on donations from the community and community grants. Intersect received a onetime grant from the Ministry for Children and Families to purchase brand new boarding equipment.
Switch has been offered in the community since 2006 and as staff that have been involved in the project since the inception, we have witnessed the benefits to both local young people and the broader community. Not only has the program supported many youth who would not otherwise have the opportunity to learn to snowboard, but it has fostered relationships between local youth and social service providers. In addition, it has provided youth the opportunity to become involved in a healthy, fun activity surrounded by healthy, caring adults. For this, Switch is proud!