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Horizons program takes over UCC for a day

April 6 was unofficially “Horizons Day” at Upper Canada College, as the learning partnership program to assist students from Toronto inner-city schools was involved in four separate events on campus.

The day got underway with girls from Thorncliffe Park Public School taking part in a “swim to survive program” in which UCC boys were in the pool with them and acting as lifeguards. IB1 student Benji McLean came up with the idea, and he received support from his twin brother Nathan. (See full story here.)

Fifty-three students from G.B. Little Public School enjoyed some macaroni and cheese and then received math tutoring and assistance with some of their classroom work from older UCC students during the lunch period.

All UCC Year 1 students have taken part in this program. One class took part in the program starting at noon that day, spearheaded by CAS director Craig Parkinson and civics teachers to help the boys develop empathy and a respect for learning differences.

“They worked with younger students with special needs from a developmental disabilities class for kids from Grades 1 to 6 who have something that affects their learning,” says Sehgal.

“It could be Down syndrome, autism or something congenital. It doesn’t matter. It’s about boys working with younger kids who learn differently.”

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The boys spent about 90 minutes with their “little buddies,” eating lunch, doing table activities and helping the kids with a circuit program in the gym involving various physical and mental activities.

UCC hosted young Syrian refugees for the third time when about 90 of them who are living in the Plaza Hotel until their families can find more permanent accommodations arrived at 2:30 p.m. to either skate at the William P. Wilder ’40 Arena & Sports Complex or take part in art activities organized by the Prep School.

It marked the first time on ice for most of the kids, who ranged in age from three to 13 and used skates and helmets donated to Horizons by the Prep Parents’ Organization as well as those collected during the annual drive on Association Day. Upper School history teacher Reem Aweida-Parsons speaks Arabic and was on hand to translate and break down any potential language barriers, while five instructors from Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment joined UCC and The Bishop Strachan School students to ensure that the skaters were safe and had fun.

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“The tutors were so patient and warm and inviting,” says Sehgal. “You see the full range of what they’re capable of.”

There are two more major Horizons events coming up at the College this month.

The first is a computer science conference hosted by 14 UCC students who will lead 55 Grade 5 and 6 students from Sprucecourt Public School from noon to five p.m. on April 12. They’ll all have lunch and then engage in rotating sessions covering topics including virtual reality, software planning and web development. Google and the University of Toronto’s science department have been supportive and donated items that will be given to participants.

UCC hosted the Ontario Model United Nations conference on April 16 and 17, and 15 Horizons participants from The Elms Middle School who’ve been part of a six-week program to develop debating skills and learn more about Model UN will be part of it. Several students from the Horizons high school program, who’ve gone through all three Horizons summer programs and are now in high school, also took part.

“It’s been a busy term, but there’s been a lot of support for these programs from the faculty, administration, parents and the boys,” says Sehgal of what Horizons has to offer the UCC community and the students from other schools who benefit from it.

“It’s a synthesis of all the good that’s going on around here. It builds character. It involves community outreach and awareness of the different lives that people are living.”

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