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Vancouver inner-city kids climb Mt. Kilimanjaro in Street2Peak

03/04/2015 10:48 EST | Updated 05/04/2015 05:59 EDT
It's one of the most physically challenging hikes anyone can undertake and a group of inner-city kids from East Vancouver have been preparing for years fora climb most can only dream of doing: scaling the heights of Mt. Kilimanjaro.

"It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," says Brandon Kaine, a Grade 10 student at Streetfront, the alternative school program behind the project known as Street2Peak.

Streetfront places an emphasis on physical activity and outdoor experiences as a way to engage students who have trouble in the mainstream school system. 

In addition to taking classes in math, science, Social Studies and English, Streetfront students run marathon races and spend time camping and hiking as part of their curriculum.

"I've really been able to focus since joining Streetfront," says Kaine, who's training to do his third marathon. "It's helped me pay attention in school."

Taking alternative education to another level

The trip to Mount Kilimanjaro "takes things to another level," says Trevor Stokes, the teacher at Streetfront. He's also the head of Alternative Programs at Britannia Secondary School, where Streetfront is based.

"We wanted to raise the bar and elevate the goals for these kids."

Unique opportunity for disadvantaged kids

Britannia Secondary's former vice-principal Andrew Schofield came up with the idea of taking the students to Africa (he's originally from South Africa), and Street2Peak was born.

After 3 years of fundraising, students and volunteers raised over $100,000 for the trip.

According to Stokes, the journey is as much about creating a sense of possibility as it is about achieving physical goals.

A majority of Streetfront's students live in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, about 80% are aboriginal, and most live in poverty.

"This has already been a transforming experience," says Stokes. To the best of his knowledge, this is will be the first Canadian school group to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro.

"There's such a sense of pride in what they've accomplished so far. It's amazing to see their focus."

The group of 15 students and their 10 adult supervisors depart Vancouver on March 5 begin their ascent on March 7. They'll return to Vancouver on March 20, after spending time in Lake Manyara and Serengeti National Parks.

Kaine is thrilled about the opportunity–and so is his mother. "Every day, she says 'I can't believe you're going to Africa!'" laughs Kaine.

"The furthest I've ever travelled is Seattle."

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