Updated: Sep 17, 2018
August 13, 2007, Cape Breton Post article:
North Sydney — A non-profit society that assists young, motivated learners by providing the resources and support system they need to enhance their education is getting national recognition.
Educational Program Innovations Charity (EPIC) Society, based at the Southside Learning Centre in Sydney, is a finalist in the child care services category for the Donner Foundation Awards for Excellence in the delivery of social services. The awards will be presented in Toronto on Oct. 19.
North Sydney resident, Barry Waldman is the founder and supervisor of the society.
After wading through the award application process, he was pleased to hear the society had made it on to the short list when it was officially released Aug. 2.
“We’ve felt all along that there have been substantial results for the program,” Waldman said from his home, Tuesday.
“There are lots of tutoring programs out there and there are lots of mentoring programs, but most of the ones that we’re familiar with that try to combine both fall on the wayside. They just have a difficult time sustaining funding over a long period of time.”
EPIC, which used to be known as the Youth Peers Program, at one time depended on federal government funding to provide its services to youth, but it now receives annual grants from the Law Foundation of Nova Scotia.
Waldman said the foundation has been a constant champion of helping youth through difficult times in their lives, whether its due to social or academic reasons.
“That’s our bread and butter support. It seems to be a pretty stable source (of funding) and they are very pleased with what we do so that looks like it’s going to be ongoing,” he said.
Young people between the ages of eight and 18 have to be referred to the society through 20 different agencies from Island Community Justice, the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board, the Children’s Aid Society of Cape Breton-Victoria, and Addiction Services among others.
During the school year, they attend an after school program one day a week at the Southside Learning Centre where they are paired up with a slightly older person who acts as their mentor/tutor. The volunteers are high school and university students who the young person can look up to for guidance.
The 2.5 hour session begins with an hour of school work followed by an hour of socializing through educational games, art or music. A half-hour snack break is sandwiched between the two activities.
“We find there is an unusual level of receptiveness that develops in the kids because they are being helped by a cool kid, by someone else they look up to and that’s similar to them and talks something like they do,” Waldman said. “In the very least case it’s a positive experience for the kids. And for the most substantial case it seems to be life-changing.”
There are 28 non-profit groups nominated in nine categories for the Donner Awards, of which more that 600 groups applied.
The winner in each category receives $5,000 and the top prize given out is the William H. Donner Award for Excellence worth $20,000, which is presented to the highest performer overall.
EPIC is one of only two non-profits from Atlantic Canada nominated. The other is Alice Housing of Dartmouth, nominated in the provision of basic necessities category.