One of the most important things a student can learn is how to effect change in their community.
In Cloverdale Learning Centre’s social justice co-op program, the students do just that.
Earlier this year, their work made a very simple but very visible change to the community — they successfully petitioned for a crosswalk to be installed in front of their school.
“We looked at different problems in society,” said teacher Tracey Lane. “We wanted to look at something locally that we could change.”
The crosswalk was an important project, as it’s “important to these guys to be able to get into the school without being run over,” she said. There are other local issues that are important to the students, she explained, but this was a safety issue that they faced at least twice a day.
The class noted that a crosswalk would make a difference for many others as well — Cloverdale Learning Centre (CLC) is located on downtown Cloverdale’s main street, 176 Street. The intersection of 56A Avenue and 176 Street, where the school is located, is busy with students, shoppers and local residents both day and night.
Six students worked on the project with the help of teachers Tracey Lane and Karl Dinesen: Juliana Douring, Lacey Muller, Nathan Rasmussen, Carmen Martin, Tyler Burkhart and Kevin Gagnon.
Juliana, like many of CLC’s students, drives to school and parks down the street in a public city parking lot.
“Usually I park all the way over there, so you have to cross [the street],” said Juliana. “Sometimes there would be the odd person that would stop for you, but.” She shrugged.
The students canvassed their school, asking if their classmates would sign a petition for a crosswalk. A group also took to the pavement in downtown Cloverdale, knocking on doors and asking business owners if they would support their project.
“All the businesses were pretty keen on it. When we said we were working on a crosswalk there was no hesitation by any of them,” said Dinesen.
All told, about 200 students and community members signed the petition. A letter to the City of Surrey, penned by the co-op students, was sent with the petition attached.
The initial response was not encouraging.
According to the group, the city sent a letter back stating that they were not responsible for crosswalks along 176 Street.
“We’re not sure who read our petition, but they must have read 176 Street and thought, ‘Oh, it’s the highway.’”
At that point, they thought the project was “dead in the water,” as the Ministry of Transportation wasn’t “going to care about our tiny little crosswalk,” said Lane.
“The next thing we know, we’re getting [another] letter saying, ‘You’re getting a crosswalk,’” said Lane. “Next thing we know, they were out here.”
The letter and petition was sent to the city before summer break. During summer vacation, city officials came out to count how many people cross at the intersection. After city approval, the crosswalk was installed on September 17.
— Sam Anderson (@sam_andrsn) September 17, 2018
When the Reporter talked to the CLC co-op students in October, they said future projects such as improving student access to parking or creating more crosswalks might be on their to-do list.
As for what they learned from the crosswalk project, Nathan said, “These two wonderful teachers basically tried to show us that we could make change. It doesn’t matter how small or how big it is — [it’s important] for us to be the change.”