Mackenzie McLean is a high school student and a passionate rock climber. Because of the School Works program, she has been able to maintain part-time employment during the school year while developing important skills that are creating a foundation for her future career.
“I am a Spirit After School Program (SAS) instructor, which is super cool. I like being able to teach kids how to climb. You learn a lot of patience, how to teach kids and how to get a message across in different ways for different learning styles,” Mackenzie shared.
The SAS program is an after school program designed to introduce kids to climbing. “Every month a certain group of kids comes in on a certain day, and it will be the same throughout the month. For at least four weeks in a row you have the same kids so you get to learn and develop with them,” said Mackenzie.
Mackenzie has been involved with Spirit Rock since its opening. “When I was younger, I did the SAS program and I really liked it, and then I spent a lot of time here climbing because it’s a great environment, and then I ended up picking up this job here.”
The School Works program provides a wage subsidy to small businesses, non-profits, First-Nations organizations and public bodies in the Basin to help them hire a full-time student for part-time work throughout the school year. The program offers up to $8 per hour wage subsidy and was created to benefit small businesses as well as provide integral work experience for Basin youth. In its fourth year, the program is funded by Columbia Basin Trust and delivered by the College of the Rockies.
It has offered Mackenzie a unique opportunity to spend more time at the climbing gym while developing key skills in teaching and leadership. She’s also gained experience in customer service while working the front desk from time to time.
In addition to developing teaching and leadership skills, Mackenzie has also refined her own climbing skills. “I’ve become a better climber, from teaching kids because you have to reflect on your own skills.” As for the future, “I really like being outside, so I might consider going into outdoor guiding which this experience would help with.”
Ryan Tarves, one of Spirit Rock’s owners says they have been involved with the School Works program for many years. He shares how this initiative has helped keep the SAS program going throughout unpredictable times in the business. “Kimberley is the sort of town where it’s hard to plan things. We can’t count on consistent enrollment of six kids every month, so as a business it can be a little challenging. The wage subsidy gives us the ability to always have the program available.”
As for the skills Mackenzie is learning, Ryan said, “Children can be one of the more challenging clients to teach, especially when they outnumber you which is most of the time. Mackenzie has done an amazing job with it.” Working with the toughest of the clientele can definitely be the most challenging and also the most rewarding. Mackenzie is gaining experience that will help her develop interpersonal skills, teaching methods and communication.
Without School Works, it would be tough to continue to offer the SAS program year round at Spirit Rock. The SAS program benefits the kids of Kimberley by offering learn-to-climb workshops after school. “It really helps us out; it’s great,” Ryan said.