Post-secondary careers in limbo for Surrey students

SURREY — With week two of the teachers’ dispute underway and students still out of classrooms, parents and students are growing increasingly frustrated with what it means not only for their current situations, but for their futures.

With no negotiations currently planned between the government and teachers, there’s no telling how much longer the dispute will drag on for.For Semiahmoo Secondary student and track star Chelsea Ribeiro, that’s not acceptable.

Worried about how the delayed school year will affect her post-secondary athletic opportunities, Ribeiro is pleading to both sides to find an end to the dispute, as it could permanently damage the futures of senior high school students like herself.

In a letter to the Now, the 17-year-old wrote of her concerns of missing out on the recruiting process from universities across North America.

Having already competed in countless competitions both in Canada and abroad, Ribeiro says her opportunities for much sought-after U.S. scholarships are very real.

However, due to the American National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) rules, recruits are not allowed to tour prospective campuses until their senior high school year has begun.

With the signing period for U.S. colleges and universities being Nov. 11 to 19, Ribeiro’s time to tour any campuses there is quickly running out.

"Athletics is everything to me and without it, I can’t imagine the person I’d be today," she said.

"All I ask for is the BC Teachers’ strike to be resolved so that I may continue to pursue my dreams. This strike is hurting kids’ futures…all we ask for is the ability to learn and play sports so that we can pursue our life goals and dreams."

Elsewhere in Surrey, mothers Jennifer Clark and Sharon Ferguson are simply fed up with the state of the dispute.

Both with young children missing out on elementary school, the mothers held an impromptu classroom session outside of MLA Stephanie Cadieux’s office last Thursday to show their dissatisfaction with the current situation.

"We’ve had three months and it concerns me that some of this negotiation stuff didn’t happen through the essential three months that they did have," said Clark.

"I think it’s completely embarrassing that we are faced with this at this particular time. Our kids are pawns in this whole situation."

"They can’t keep using the kids as leverage. They have to stop using our future as leverage. If these kids don’t get educated, what’s going to happen is that it’s just going to continue."

"We feel like we’re being just ignored. It’s like two parents going through a divorce and we’re stuck in the middle."

And for Surrey parent Meera Gill, whose son’s high school graduation was affected by the strike this past June, she said the current state of the situation isn’t setting a good example for children.

Gill helped organize a rally for frustrated parents that took place last Wednesday and again on Sunday.

The rallies have been attended by parents of students from elementary and secondary schools united in their frustration with both sides’ inability to come to a resolution.

"We simply want the schools to be open, we sat for this many months hoping they would figure it out, optimistic that these educated, well-trained people would do their jobs," said Gill of the BCTF and government.

Unfortunately, with the second week of no school now underway, Gill is wondering who’s supposed to be advocating on behalf of the half-million children still without school.

"Who’s going to put a dollar value on kids being outside of the classroom? Who’s defending the rights of children in Canada to be educated?" she wondered.

"Ten, 20 years down the road these are the people who will be voting and you’re not teaching them any valuable life lessons here. Kids will remember this for the rest of their lives."

With files from Kyle Benning

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