One of the Toronto District School Board’s hidden gems sits in a bright, sunny room at the corner of Dundas West and Bathurst Street. Surrounded by brightly painted walls and a kitchen stocked with healthy food, the Oasis Skateboard Factory reengagement program isn’t your average high school art class.
The program took up residence at the Scadding Court Community Centre in early September after growing out of the Oasis Alternative School. Teacher/artist Craig Morrison spurred its growth from a month-long pilot project to a one or two semester program.
“The reality is I teach students who have not been successful in a regular school,” Craig says. “What we’re doing here at the TDSB is creating focused schools for students who maybe wouldn’t fit into a big school or are not interested in regular classes.”
Ironically, the Skateboard Factory program isn’t about the sport of skateboarding. It’s about entrepreneurial design and business marketing of a unique product. As the first school in the TDSB to offer all subjects with a skateboard and street art focus, the Skateboard Factory helps students earn Gr. 9/10/11 high-school credits through its unique focus.
Students participate in a social justice and community-focused entrepreneurial business where they learn to build skateboards, design original custom graphics, work with local artists and community partners, market and display their work and have the opportunity to receive an honorarium.
Mike Raybould, 17, is one student who received a much-needed boost in confidence after joining the program last year. Mike was out of school for two years as a younger teen, but when he joined the Skateboard Factory he became inspired.
“When I started out at Oasis, I was quiet. I didn’t like to be seen as abnormal or weird, whatever,” he says. “But then I gained lots of confidence.”
Mike helps many fellow students complete their skateboard projects and even has four designs of his own hanging in neighbourhood businesses. He’s the Alternative Schools representative on TDSB SuperCouncil and has plans to get his MBA.
Tanya Kocur, 17, was a struggling student at Etobicoke C.I. before coming to Oasis and is now thriving in Morrison’s class. “Craig’s an amazing teacher,” she says. “Every day I wake up and I’m excited to go to school.”
Real-life skateboarder Dillyn Mathew Horne, 17, is new to the class but already finding it much more his style than his former school. The small class with less than 20 students allows Horne to focus on learning and makes him enthusiastic about school every day. “This program actually makes me want to come to class and work,” he says.
The Oasis Skateboard Factory is available for students aged 16 to 18 who are out of school or don’t have many credits. For registration information contact Craig at 416-393-9830 or firstname.lastname@example.org.