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No child is ever happy to see summer end, but thanks to our supporters the students of HomeBridge’s on-site school, Bridges for Learning have a lot to be excited about when they return to class this fall.

Bridges for Learning (BFL) is an accredited, 12-seat school program that serves youth-in-care with a goal of transitioning them back into the mainstream school system. The school is unique in the fact that a teacher and a youth care specialist work together to help the youth find success in the classroom. The Departments of Community Services and Education fund these positions. Many of the young people served in this program struggle with learning disabilities as well as emotional and behavioural issues that can distract from the learning process. Thanks to two additional donors and a healthy dose of technology however this year may be their best school year yet.

The Halifax Region Children’s Aid Foundation has generously funded the purchase of some assistive technology that will make a huge difference in the school experience for BFL’s struggling learners. HomeBridge’s psychologist identified a number of evidence based assistive technology software programs and tools that accommodate each student’s unique learning challenges. This list includes DANA keyboards to help students organize their work and software programs that turn scanned text into audio books, translate voice into text and assist the user in word formation and spelling. Thanks to the Children’s Aid Foundation this new technology will change the entire learning experience for the students.

The Gordon Foundation for Children and Youth has also made some additions to the classroom that the students will enjoy this year. They funded the purchase of a Heartmath system for each HomeBridge program and for BFL they also funded a laptop to run the software program on. This will be the first school year that the system is utilized.

Using a pulse sensor plugged into the USB port, Heartmath collects pulse data through the user’s fingertip and translates the information into user-friendly graphics displayed on the computer screen. Through coherence techniques, interactive exercises and game play, the system helps the user bring their heart and mind into a coherent state, building resilience, increased energy and promoting focus, mental clarity and emotional balance. The same system has been used to treat soldiers returning from war with post-traumatic stress syndrome. It will be a great tool in the classroom to help the students calm their stresses and anxieties and focus on their studies.

Since BFL opened in 2005 school attendance for youth who reside in the HomeBridge Community has gone from 21 per cent to 81 per cent. This year, that number could climb even higher.