Lisa Ellis was 15 years old when she finally felt a sense of belonging and safety in school. In Grade 9, Ellis left public school to attend Artemis Place for Girls, an alternative school in Victoria.
Now, 30 years later, Ellis is working as the executive director of the Artemis Place Society.
“It was the first time that I was somewhere where I felt actually respected by adults,” said Ellis, reflecting on her time as a student at Artemis Place. “It made such a difference for me, that I went on and got my teaching degree and my Masters in counselling. I just wanted to do the same sort of work.”
The Artemis Place school accepts young women between the ages of 15 and 19 who struggle with issues such as learning disabilities, substance abuse, anxiety or other mental health issues. For girls who are also mothers, there is a daycare onsite.
There is no cost to the girls to attend the school or for the daycare services.
Artemis Place Society receives funding from various foundations such as the Victoria Foundation, Telus Community Board, United Way and the Ministry of Education.
Recently, Artemis Place received a $20,000 grant from the Victoria Foundation.
“This project that they funded is for two emergency spaces in our daycare,” said Ellis.
Young mothers who cannot commit to attending school full time are not eligible for $1,000 a month per child childcare subsidy.
Having these two spaces paid for ensures that mothers can stay connected with Artemis Place and work with their counsellors at least once a week while their babies are being taken care of. This grant will fund the program for one year.
Besides regular schoolwork, girls at Artemis Place also learn life skills such as budgeting, cooking, healthy relationships and sexual health.
“Each student has an individual plan that we’re working on,” said Ellis.
In the few years that the young women attend the program, Ellis said it is remarkable to see how much they change and grow.
“It’s incredibly powerful. It’s heartwarming and encouraging. They’re really supported to do all their life work here and learn healthier coping skills and become strong and empowered.”
She added the girls receive support from the teachers and counsellors, but they also receive support from each other
“Here they can be with other girls who are trying to do better for themselves and trying to be better moms. We hear back constantly from people who say that this was pivotal in their lives in a time they most needed it,” said Ellis.
Lindsay Buckshot , 16, has been attending school at Artemis Place since January. Her daughter Ray-Lin Frank-Johnson is nine months old.
“I probably wouldn’t be in school if it weren’t for this place,” said Buckshot.
The $20,000 grant to Artemis Place Society will make a big impact, but it is just a fraction of the $12.6 million and more in grants that the Victoria Foundation has given out this year. The Victoria Foundation is the largest non-government granting organization in the region.
“The most rewarding part, obviously, is hearing from the organizations and the individuals that they serve,” said Robert Janus, director of communications for the Victoria Foundation. “We’re just amazed every year to see the kind of wonderful projects and then the impact of those projects.”
For more information, go online to artemisplace.org or call 250-598-5183.