On Wednesday, June 19, 2019, the Portage Drug Rehabilitation Centre at Saint-Malachie hosted a vernissage to mark the end of the school year and the awarding of five scholarships that were presented to the students by Stéphanie Lachance, Member of the National Assembly. 

The young residents of the Portage Saint-Malachie Centre, located one hour from Québec City, went all out to welcome guests to their open house event. The special day included a vernissage showcasing the residents’ artistic creations, performance art and the $1,000 scholarship awards!

Johanne Marceau, a teacher with the Côte-Sud School Board, recently started teaching mathematics, science and art at Portage Saint-Malachie. Johanne loves her new job and the therapeutic environment at Portage. Johanne is native to the area; she used to go skiing at Saint-Malachie before the lodge was converted to a youth rehabilitation centre. She explains what’s different about teaching at Portage: ʺIn traditional school settings, I spent a lot of time managing cell phone and social media use and maintaining discipline in the classroom. At Portage, the students are engaged in a much more positive process. Some of them had previously dropped out of school, but are now determined to succeed. What’s more, in my previous jobs, I had a lot of students who were using various substances, whereas at Portage, there is no substance use and that makes a huge difference because the students are much more receptiveʺ.

Many scholarships are awarded to Portage students throughout Québec, Ontario and the Maritimes. To highlight the scholarship awards, Johanne decided to organize a vernissage of the residents’ artwork and performance art. She explains that ʺthe idea was to create a movement, a synergy that would allow the participating youth to influence each other. I decided to suggest that they attend a textile art workshop through a videoconferencing session with the École des métiers d’art de Québec. The students learned to weave together various conceptsʺ. Just like in a real art gallery, some residents of the Saint-Malachie centre wanted to engage in performance art. ʺThere were a lot of performance projectsʺ, says Johanne. ʺOne of my students sat in a chair, with a soundscape in the background, and painted abstract art on a canvas. Another one performed a monologue describing a representation of the world; the tone was humorous, but the ending was dramatic. It was really quite powerfulʺ.

All Portage drug rehabilitation centres for youth include a mandatory four hours of schooling per day. The end of the year is fast approaching and several residents will soon be graduating. This year, a student at Saint-Malachie is completing his last year of high school (secondary V) with ʺexcellent marksʺ, according to teacher Johanne Marceau. Two other students will be getting professional training, one as an orderly and the other as a welder. Academic success is one more milestone for these youth, an acknowledgement of the many efforts made throughout their treatment program. School is one of the pillars of the foundation that will enable these youth to become active citizens as they go through life.

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