The New Frontiers School Board (NFSB) is now offering a travel allowance bursary for students who travel more than 65 kilometres to attend classes at one of its three continuing education centres.
The program is funded by the Quebec government through the Ministry of Education to encourage would-be students to consider trade programs located outside urban centres. The initiative also emphasizes trade programs where graduates are currently in high demand to fill labour shortages within the province. These programs include health assistance and nursing, welding, mechanics, carpentry, horticulture and landscaping, and institutional and home care assistance. All of these are currently being offered by the NFSB at either the NOVA Career Centre in Chateauguay, the Chateauguay Valley Career Education Centre in Ormstown, and the Huntingdon Adult Education and Community Centre.
The NFSB received a total of $50,000 through the program. The vast majority will be distributed to students during the remainder of this school year and the next. To be eligible, students must be travelling over 65 kilometres to attend classes; but they must also be attending full-time, maintaining a passing grade, and keeping an attendance record of over 90 per cent. Currently, there are 15 students registered with the NFSB who qualify for the allowance.
“I think this can have a major impact on our students,” says Derek Stacey, the director at HAECC and CVCEC. “It is all about removing obstacles,” he explains, pointing out how transport has become a significant issue. The bus route from Montreal to the Valley is not practical, and while there is a shuttle bus provided by the NFSB from NOVA in Chateauguay through Kahnawake to both the CVCEC and HAECC, it is not always convenient. Stacey says he is hoping this new program will positively affect both enrollment and attendance.
“We have students coming from Sutton and from Farnham,” says Kaylie Stuckey, a project development officer with the NFSB, who suggests monthly gas expenses for these students can exceed $800. “At that point, you need a job,” she says, suggesting this kind of financial strain can put their status as full-time students at risk. “As much as this is financial aid, it is also mental health aid,” she says.
One of the reasons people do travel great distances to attend the NFSB programs is that they are available in English. The carpentry program at CVCEC is one of the only programs of its type, and the horticulture program at HAECC is the only English program in the province. Student Felicha Griffith admits that while she is bilingual, language was part of what drew her to CVCEC. “My dad used to be a carpenter and I always found it so fascinating to watch him,” says Griffith, who took woodworking in high school before applying to the Ormstown-based carpentry program after graduation. The distance made her hesitate, however, as she travels over 76 kilometres from her home in Pointe Claire every day. “I am not an experienced driver,” says the 18-year-old student, who admits winter driving can be especially stressful.
Griffith started the program last August and has been managing a heavy gas bill ever since. “I am lucky that I had some money saved up, but it is crazy to see how fast it is going down,” she laments. “I was very excited to see that I qualified for the allowance,” she says, admitting that “It would mean survival at this point.”
Stacey says he recognizes financial stress in his students. “With the increase in prices, people are struggling. We can’t be everything to everyone, but every little thing we do helps,” he says. The application for the travel allowance bursary is ongoing, and new students will be able to apply as they start their programs throughout the year. Anyone interested in learning more about the bursary can contact Kaylie Stuckey at firstname.lastname@example.org