Twenty-nine-year-old Christina Arcand stands on the front porch of her Regina home with a welcoming smile on her face. She extends her hand and greets me, welcoming me inside. We walk through a narrow hallway past the living room and into the dining room. It’s there that we sit at a table, surrounded by pictures and notes posted to a bulletin board, and a child’s drawing hanging on the wall with the words “I love my family” scribbled in marker.
Before Christina begins to share her story and experiences of Ranch Ehrlo, she slides her resume across the table and opens a padfolio of certificates and achievements.
While the list of education qualifications on her resume runs long (dating back 10 years), school didn’t always come easy to Christina.
Christina was a troubled youth in her adolescent years. She jumped from school to school, getting kicked out of many. A referral from the school division and intervention by social services landed Christina in Ranch Ehrlo’s Schaller School, at the Pilot Butte campus. She was only 11 years old when she became a day student. She would spend two years attending Schaller, a school designed to meet the needs of children and youth with behavioural issues.
“I was an out-of-control teen. I had a lot of temper problems, got kicked out of a lot of schools so it was kind of a last resort,” she said bluntly. “Staying in school just wasn’t one of the things I wanted to do, I wanted to be home with my mom.”
Christina said the move to Schaller School was a large transition, one that took time to accept. Upon first arriving at Schaller, Christina said she kept to herself and recoiled from staff and students. She warmed to the new environment after a few months, she said, learning to grow and trust her teachers and her peers.
“It was more like a home than a school. It didn’t feel like a ‘normal’ school. It was more laid back, more comfortable and you could actually focus on yourself instead of focusing on everything and everyone else,” she reminisced. “I was only a day student, but some days I wouldn’t want to come home. I just wanted to stay at the Ranch.”
Due to her family’s plans to relocate to Saskatoon, Christina was pulled out of Schaller School when she was 13 years old and began to prepare for reintegration into the public school system.
“I cried when I had to leave (Schaller),” she said. “I just wanted to stay there and graduate.”
The two years of instruction at Schaller School was long enough to help Christina get back on track, and rediscover her love for learning. She enrolled in a mainstream school in Saskatoon and successfully graduated in 2004, with honours and a $15,000 volleyball scholarship.
“It all comes down to making the right choices and right decisions, having good supports and good people that will always stand behind you,” she said of her accomplishments.
Her eyes wander as she stares into the memories of her past. Her voice softens and she brings her hands to her face as she admits, “If (Ranch Ehrlo) didn’t have an outreach program for students I honestly don’t know where I’d be. If I didn’t have the school, the teachers, the supports – that’s a really scary thought. I’m lucky to be where I am right now. I could have ended up in the street life the way I was going.”
Since graduation, Christina has lived to her own accord, accomplishing goals and achieving dreams. She fulfilled her life-long dream of travelling across Canada, landed her first job at the Saskatoon airport, attended university and had her daughter.
She said the children and youth that chose to express their frustrations and aggressions through negative behaviour need to refocus their energies and learn who they are, aside from the turmoil they may have experienced.
“The road they’re taking is not an easy one if they keep choosing to do what they’re doing. The best advice I can give is to find out exactly who you really are. If you don’t know who you are, you’re going to be one lost person.”
“Talk to somebody about your problems,” she continued. “ Don’t let it build up to the point where you’re going to do something stupid or you’re going to do something you’re going to regret.”
“There’s always light at the end of the tunnel. Change doesn’t happen overnight but just keep trying. It’s definitely not easy, but if you keep trying and keep trying, you’ll get there eventually.”