Shania Twain opens clubhouse for at-risk youth in Brampton

The Globe and Mail
By Caroline Alphonso - EDUCATION REPORTER
September 19, 2014

Canadian country singer Shania Twain did not like attending school. She often went to school hungry and did not have weather-appropriate clothing.

I felt left out and inferior, she told a group of children on Friday at Sir Winston Churchill Public School in Brampton, Ont.

Ms. Twain was at the school to open a clubhouse that will provide at-risk students with nutrition programs, tutoring, psychological support and extracurricular activities.

I wanted the program to exist when I was your age, she said.

The school will receive $100,000 a year over four years to help 20 kids every year. The program is funded by the Shania Kids Can Charity Foundation and the Dilawri Foundation.

The two charities launched a similar program in Calgary earlier this year. Two more, in Vancouver and Regina, are in the planning stages.

Ms. Twain described her difficult childhood to the elementary school students, many of whom listened attentively even though they acknowledged they had not heard of the celebrity singer and songwriter.

I made a vow to myself when I was a child if I ever made it, I would some day help kids like me, she said in an interview with The Globe and Mail. Every time I come to a program, either to revisit it or to open one, Im looking at a lot of mes in there.

What Im hoping for them, she added, is that they learn through the program the coping skills and the learning skills to fulfill the burden and demand placed on them to be as functional as they can be.

The children were selected based on academic need, behavioural issues, and their socioeconomic circumstances. Sir Winston Churchill is deemed one of the Peel District School Boards most at-risk schools, and it has suffered tough times recently.

One of its students, 10-year-old Nicolas Gabriel, died when a fire broke out in June at a Brampton housing unit. He was in Grade 4.

Principal Kristin Bergen said she hopes the program will inspire children, and help them with their schooling.

Its such a support for the school, both for those 20 students, but also for the wider school community, she said.

One 10-year-old girl who was selected to be part of the program said she is hoping her time in the clubhouse will give her confidence and help her do better in math.

Gavin Anderson, 11, plans to ask for help in language studies. Also, I just want to have fun, he added.