New high skills major at Banting

June 17, 2010

ALLISTON - When school starts up again in September, a dozen or more Banting Memorial High School students will embark on an education path towards careers in nursing, physiotherapy and fitness.

The health and wellness program being launched this September is the Alliston school's fourth Specialist High Skills Major (SHSM) course.

"Already there have been students enrolling in it," said SHSM co-ordinator Theresa Watt. "I think (students) like the idea. We try to go above and beyond with field trips and job shadowing."

Watt said four students have enrolled in the new program, and 15 more have expressed interest after she gave a talk to more than 100 students recently. That was before Watt headed off to a presentation to a further 170 students.

Banting offers transportation, horticulture and landscaping, agri-business and, now, health and wellness SHSMs. Health and wellness could combine biology and fitness classes with co-operative placements to achieve its goal.

Each SHSM needs a lead teacher as the driving force - Watt is the lead teacher of the agri-business program - and "students who are game."

While the three established SHSMs are "very specific", health and wellness "is a wide-ranging field," Watt said.

"We're going to draw more students."

The SHSM program isn't unique to the Simcoe County District School Board, but it's being implemented effectively. Banting ranks among the top schools in the county with its four SHSMs - and there's interest in more.

"There has been interest in a culinary arts Specialist High Skills Major and an early childhood education program," Watt said. However, the school is, "busy with the four we have trying to make them work."

Watt said 11 students are graduating from the SHSM program this year.

Teachers Romina Iafrate and Amy Ward will lead the new health and wellness program in September.

SHSMs rely heavily on contributions from co-operative employees including municipalities, local businesses and local farms.

Watt said many employers have not only mentored co-op students but have also spoken at evening presentation sessions and SHSM student tours of their businesses.

Some SHSM students have even gained jobs from their co-op placements.

The three current SHSM programs at Banting are supported by more than 70 local businesses.