Project Change to close

by Doug Ashbury
Northern News Services

NNSL (Nov 10/97) - This time it's for real. At the end of the month, the financial door will shut completely on Project Change.

There has been talk of closing the Yellowknife-based school for disabled Northerners on other occasions. But Beulah Phillpot, treasurer of the Learning Disabilities Association, said the end is definitely in sight for Project Change, an organization that offers alternative education to people age 16 and older.

Many of the clients over the school's 12-year history have been aboriginal. About half come from outside Yellowknife. The maximum per year is 20 students.

"Closing Project Change is discouraging. We've been looking for funding for 18 months," Phillpot said.

The Department of Education, Culture and Employment funds the school $60,000 a year. That annual funding is in place through the 1997-98 school year.

But it takes about $180,000 to operate Project Change each year, Phillpot said.

Human Resources and Development Canada and GNWT Social Services were other sources of funds.

Project Change has applied for a two-year grant worth $45,000 per year. It may get $5,000.

"I feel bad for the kids," said teacher Irene Birin, with the school since day 1. "Our school deals with students at a certain age. We're trying to prepare them for (the closing)."

Birin will return to Manitoba.

Project Change student Trevor Nigo said he plans to look to Aurora College.

But Project Change services primarily students with skills below college level.

Students compiled their own lists of what the school means to them. They believe the school built skills and self-esteem and kept them away from drugs and alcohol.

"This program provides a first step to opportunity," students wrote in a letter about Project Change.

Project Change's demise follows soon after the closure of the Yellowknife Achievement Centre Ltd.