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Quest School's new Sunalta campus focuses on high school student learning and an adult transition program


Quest School has expanded to a second campus in Calgary that is an innovative learning hub for high school students and young adults with moderate to severe developmental disabilities.

Allie Gauthier is the vice-principal of the high school and says when the space was being designed there was a lot of thought put into it to make it special for the 50 students.

"We created a kitchen for students to use, a life skills labs, laundry services," she said. "All those things that give students a place to practice their skills to increase their independence and they're gonna take those skills with them into adulthood."

The demand for Quest's programming has been on the rise with its waitlist quadrupling in the past three years. The expansion of their programs with this new campus will ensure more students have the best educational opportunities available so they can thrive.

"Our school has been around for over 40 years so we've been serving the Calgary community throughout that time," said Gauthier. "We've heard from our families about the need for a special space for our students, especially our high school students."

Reach full potential

Gauthier says the campus is helping to build relationships with students and their families who are watching them grow and reach their full potential.

"Our students all have complex needs, so moderate to severe disabilities and we have multi-age classrooms, so they're not based on grade level," she said. "They're grouped more based on their needs, their social skills, not necessarily their grade, or their age level.

"What's huge," she added, "is our students come here, they have peers that are friends, and they find a place of belonging."

Rahel Mulugheta, Quest program director, focuses on life skills like hygiene, laundry, basic kitchen skills, social relationships, skills, volunteerism for the older students in the adult transition program.

Physical and mental health, social connections, relationships and job readiness are also a priority.

"I think navigating adulthood is already hard enough," she said. "I feel like these are the things that you need to know and to prepare for adulthood is these areas so I think that's really important."

Mulugheta says students figure out their goals for the program and then try to reach them through the activities taught.

"We even practice transit like buying a ticket, practice looking up routes, just community safety," she said. "You got to stand behind the line, community etiquette, just things like that, I think these are really important, sometimes I kind of wish when I was in high school or in college, they taught us those things."

Mulugheta says all the life skills taught will help students gain confidence and give them what they need to apply for a job. She compares it to a stepping stone or launching pad for the participants for life after school.

Coffee Cart fan

Nik Sharma, 14 years old, enrolled at the school in 2020. He would like to one day be a volunteer at the Spruce Cliff campus, helping teach the younger students. But here, he's a fan of the Coffee Cart program.

"It teaches you how to sell the coffee and how to use the money properly," he said. "You count up the money to make sure you have enough."

Anu Sharma, Nik's mom, says he was excited about the new campus and couldn't wait for its January 2024 opening.

"What we wanted ultimately for Nick was just a space where he would go where he would feel safe," she said. "Academically, he's going to learn whatever he's going to learn but most importantly, we wanted him to have an opportunity to belong to something and to feel some pride of this community and have similar routines to his sisters that he's going to school and he belongs somewhere."

Now with two campuses, Quest would like to add two more in other quadrants of the city to alleviate its wait list.

"As we continue to grow and expand, we're looking for other opportunities in the city just to continue this community based program," said Gauthier.

Learn more about Quest School here. Top Stories

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