Kathryn and I met Don Adams, the Head of the YMCA Academy in May. When we were still just talking about what Islands of Excellence could be. Don immediately blew us away with his passion and compassion for his school and students. We have been sharing and shaping the growth of Make Waves and Islands of Excellence with Don along the way. We are so lucky to have Don as a supporter of ours.

You can come hear Don speak on Friday November 16th at the Pecha Kucha.  


Tell me about best or challenging day

Amongst many great days, one stands out in particular. It was my first day at The YMCA Academy, and I was being introduced at an assembly of the school as the new principal. It’s important to understand that many students with learning disabilities do not react well to change — structure is of utmost importance — so my arrival at the school could be fairly disruptive. Understanding that, I was a little nervous about the assembly.

After the introductions, one student approached me with a broad smile, extending her hand in welcome. She said “Don, it’s good to meet you. Please come into our classes — I’d like to get to know you better.” Imagine yourself as a high school student, asking the new principal to join you in her classes!! What a remarkable school!

Tell me about something when you surprised yourself

I like to push personal boundaries, so “surprising” myself isn’t that uncommon. I once set a goal of building myself a car — a real car — from scratch. I worked on that for six years! I’ve been driving it every summer now for the last four years. I had no real mechanical or engineering experience or expertise, so the idea was a bit audacious. But I did it, and it’s a great car!

What do you see are the benefits of having multidisciplinary or different perspectives in education

As a group educators are the most other-focussed people in the world. Each is concerned with bettering the life chances of his or her students. Each, being individual, has his or her own ideas and methods on how to best do that. So, connecting with other educators broadens my repertoire of available methods and ideas, and makes me a better teacher and administrator.

Tell me a story of an IOE that you know

I just found out about a really marvelous mentoring program for youth between the ages of 15 and 23 — Called StepStones. It is for youth entering early adulthood with minimal levels of support in their lives — aging out of foster care, formerly homeless and runaway youth, youth with active mental health/substance abuse problems, delinquent youth estranged from their birth or adoptive parents etc. In this program, youth are connected with long term mentors, for a minimal period of one year, to work on goals and essential life skills related to then critical domains: Permanence, Identity, Self Care & Health, Housing, Education, Job & Career, Finances & Money, Transportation, Life Skills, and Community, Culture, Social Life.

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