The students and staff of the Agassiz Centre for Education shortly before climbing into a limo

The students and staff of the Agassiz Centre for Education shortly before climbing into a limo

ACE students travel in style to Betty Urquhart award ceremony

Agassiz teens to receive Betty Urquhart award from UFV for community work

Betty Urquhart was one of UFV’s first employees, and her commitment to building a strong relationship between UFV and the Fraser Valley community is one that lasts to this day. When she passed away In 1995, UFV renamed its community service award in her honour . The Betty Urquhart annually recognizes groups or individuals that exemplify Urquhart’s commitment to community.

This year the Betty Urquhart award is shared between two dedicated groups whose hard work is guaranteed to tug the heartstrings, one of which is the teen/senior program at the Agassiz Centre for Education (ACE). Some of the teenage members of the program will be on hand to receive the award on behalf of ACE at UFV’s Convocation ceremonies next week.

Sandy Balascak, who runs the senior/teen program through ACE, has no doubt that the teens in the program are deserving of this award. Some of the students, seniors, and community members involved will be at the ceremony to receive the award on behalf of ACE.

Balascak says the program began when Frank and Eunice Royle, two seniors from the Agassiz Harrison senior peer support group, approached her about her students’ reputation as “bad kids.”

“They were even a little afraid of my kids,” Balascak says, and when the seniors suggested senior/teen days to help fix that perception, she jumped right on board.

“The perception was that they were broken and were sent to this alternative program to be fixed,” Balascak explains, “But a lot of kids are here by choice because they knew they weren’t fitting in or learning at a normal high school.”

Balascak says some people thought she was crazy for trying to put seniors and teens together, but she had a good feeling about it. Sure enough, while the kids weren’t too keen on the idea to begin with, the program soon blossomed.

“It only took a couple of afternoons and the next thing I knew, more and more kids wanted to go, and more and more seniors wanted to be involved too,” Balascak says. “We went from a half-empty home to a packed hall.”

The program gained a lot of attention this past Christmas when the teens in the program gave up their Christmas morning to spend it with seniors who had no family. The students ran fundraising events, wrapped gifts, and arrived at the legion hall at six-thirty in the morning to have breakfast ready by eight.

“They just jumped at the chance,” says Balascak. “And the ones who couldn’t be there Christmas morning were still part of the fundraising. Everybody pitched in.”

Now in its third year, the teen/senior program is more successful than ever, and Balascak looks forward to hosting events for years to come, including a repeat of Christmas morning. Both teens and seniors have come a long way since the program’s inception, and now get together on a regular basis to have lunch and spend an afternoon together playing bingo or card games. Balascak is also quick to mention a long list of community members that made the group possible, including the unending support of the Legion, which donates the use of the hall for almost every senior/teen event, including the Christmas breakfast. None of it, Balascak says, would be possible without the support she and the students have had from every angle of the community.

And it’s unsurprising that once teens start the program, Balascak says not many give it up. The kids dedicate themselves to attending the afternoons and events often for as long as they attend ACE, she explains.

“And sometimes I can’t even get rid of them after they graduate!” Balascak says with a laugh. “These kids have become so community-minded.”

The kids are so willing to volunteer, in fact, that Balascak hopes to set up a volunteer network in the coming months to give the teens a chance to pitch in wherever they’re needed, from libraries to homeless shelters.

Meanwhile, Balascak sees her students go on to study in social work, seniors care, trades, and dental programs. And no matter what they do, she is proud of each and every one of them.

“There’s a reason I called it ‘when ‘bad’ kids go good,’” Balascak says. “They’re all good kids. I’m just glad the community got a chance to see that.”

Just Posted

The Abbotsford International Airshow is back for 2021 with the ‘SkyDrive’ concept.
Abbotsford International Airshow returns for 2021 with ‘SkyDrive’

New format features a drive-in movie type experience, show set for Aug. 6 to 8

A young couple walks through the Othello Tunnels just outside of Hope. (Jessica Peters/Black Press)
Hope’s Othello Tunnels fully open to the public

Geological testing proved the area safe enough to open for the first time in more than a year

FILE
70 per cent of people aged 12 and older in Agassiz-Harrison have been vaccinated

More than 80 per cent of adults aged 50 and older have been vaccinated, as of June 10

Raeya Evie Duncan was the 100th baby born at Chilliwack General Hospital for the month of May. She is seen here with her parents Alysha Williams and Andrew Duncan on June 12, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Baby boom in Chilliwack as record number of infants born at CGH in May

‘COVID babies are coming out,’ says dad of 100th baby born at Chilliwack General Hospital last month

Agassiz Agricultural Hall hosts COVID-19 vaccination clinics every Wednesday. District officials reported more than 300 doses are administered per week. (Adam Louis/Observer)
Walk-in COVID vaccine clinic scheduled for Wednesday

Walk-in appointments available while supplies last from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Maxwell Johnson is seen in Bella Bella, B.C., in an undated photo. The Indigenous man from British Columbia has filed complaints with the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal and the Canadian Human Rights Commission after he and his granddaughter were handcuffed when they tried to open a bank account. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Heiltsuk Nation, Damien Gillis, *MANDATORY CREDIT*
VIDEO: Chiefs join human rights case of Indigenous man handcuffed by police in B.C. bank

Maxwell Johnson said he wants change, not just words, from Vancouver police

Tk’emlups te Secwepemc Chief Rosanne Casimir stands outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School after speaking to reporters, in Kamloops, B.C., on Friday, June 4, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Kamloops chief says more unmarked graves will be found across Canada

Chief Rosanne Casimir told a virtual news conference the nation expects to release a report at the end of June

A woman wears a vaccinated sticker after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. ranks among highest in world in COVID-19 first-dose shots: health officials

More than 76% of eligible people have received their 1st shot

A screenshot of the First Peoples Cultural Councils First Peoples’ Map. (First Peoples Cultural Council)
Online resource blends B.C.-Alberta’s Indigenous languages, art and culture

Advisor says initiative supports the urgent need to preserve Indigenous languages

An artists conception of the new terminal building at the Pitt Meadows Regional Airport.
Air travel taking off in B.C., but lack of traffic controllers a sky-high concern

There will be demand for more air traffic controllers: Miller

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Canadian Armed Forces experts are on their way to North Vancouver after a local homeowner expressed worry about a military artifact he recently purchased. (Twitter DNV Fire and Rescue)
Military called in to deal with antique ‘shell’ at North Vancouver home

‘The person somehow purchased a bombshell innocently believing it was an out-of-commission military artifact’

Amy Kobelt and Tony Cruz have set their wedding date for February, hoping that more COVID-19 restrictions will have lifted. (The Macleans)
B.C. couples ‘gambling’ on whether COVID rules will let them dance at their wedding

Amy Kobelt and Tony Cruz pushed back their wedding in hopes of being able to celebrate it without the constraints of COVID-19

Most Read