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Niagara Falls
Friday, March 31, 2023
Youth Campus will fill educational gaps in town with no high school
Volunteers Caroline Polgrabia and Wendy Higgins meet at the new Youth Campus as kids play pool in the background. Evan Loree

Information session Oct. 19 will explore what people want included in the facility


The people of Niagara-on-the-Lake have been without a high school for over 10 years, but a group of volunteers is hoping to fill the hole left behind by the closing of Niagara District Secondary School.

Self-described worker bee Caroline Polgrabia and a other dedicated parents have been planning for much of the past decade to bring an alternative form of education to the community.

“I committed myself to the 10 years to see that when Grade 9 rolls around for my children that maybe there’ll be an option for them,” she told The Lake Report in an interview.

Polgrabia grew up in Niagara-on-the-Lake and attended Parliament Oak Public School and Niagara District Secondary, both of which are now closed.

The end of her dream may be in sight, but what it’ll look like, Polgrabia isn’t so sure.

Cornerstone Community Church in Virgil has offered her space in its old church on Niagara Stone Road to serve as a youth campus. 

This was only possible after Cornerstone merged its congregation with that of Orchard Park Bible Church on Hunter Road.

Now that the space is available, Polgrabia and her fellow volunteers are looking for the community’s input on what they would like to use the space for.

They will be holding their first information session Oct. 19 between 7 and 9 p.m. at the new youth campus in the old Cornerstone Church.

At this point, Polgrabia says they are ready to launch, but they’re not sure yet what the community would like to have. 

“Here’s the space. What do you want inside of it?” she said. 

People have been talking about a space for youth for a while, she said.

“We finally actually have that space now. So now we need help in designing it,” she adds.

She’s not sure what type of programming will be provided but has a few ideas. 

“For my family, I think an after-school program would work really great,” she said.

Polgrabia suggested the space could be used for movie nights, TV show screenings or even for weekly yoga nights.

It is still a “question mark” for Polgrabia but the “sky’s the limit,” she said

“I would like to see a high school sooner rather than later,” said Lord Mayor Betty Disero.

Kids have endured a “very frustrating, isolating, depressing time,” as a result of COVID-19, she said.

“The more social experience and activity that they can get now, the much better our community will be,” she added.

Polgrabia wonders if education in Ontario still needs to involve “bricks and mortar” and if everything needs to be under one roof.

“I think we can really, really think differently about education delivery and certainly in a rural environment,” she said.

Thinking outside the box, Polgrabia wonders if the education system can include some virtual elements. 

“There are lots of different ways that secondary education is being delivered,” she added. 

She is a strong advocate for publicly funded education and hopes her children still get the opportunity to attend high school in her hometown. 

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