Local youth have been given an opportunity to experience life in the military while still in high school.
As part of a new program at Garden Valley Collegiate (GVC), students can earn two high school credits while participating in basic training for the primary reserves of the Canadian Armed Forces. Participants would also be paid approximately $6,000 over the course of the semester.
GVC teacher Mark Wilson explains the program runs for the afternoon and one evening a week in Portage. Students are also expected to spend one weekend a month performing exercises with their troop at the base.
"It's a good opportunity," Wilson says. "It's a way to stick your toe in and go, "is this something for me?"
Once the course is complete, participants can end their time with the military or continue in full-time summer employment with their unit and part-time during the year. "It's a part-time obligation with no long-term engagement," Wilson says.
In total, 16 students from GVC, Northlands Parkway Collegiate and Portage Collegiate are taking part.
GVC student Jay Friesen explains the program lined up with his desire to start a career in law enforcement. "I thought it could help lead into that future."
As part of the program, students are sworn into the military, which includes an oath and a formal commitment to protect Canada while demonstrating the qualities of "integrity, loyalty, courage, honesty, fairness, and responsibility, putting service before self."
"That really sums up what this is all about," Wilson says.
Friesen says the swearing-in ceremony was a solemn moment, one that made him contemplate how "everyone has a duty for their country or for their community. Though not necessarily in the army or law enforcement... you should just do something to give back for all the freedoms you have."