Arlington to live on in Kenya

Arlington Middle School [url=]may be closing[/url], but have no fear — another school will be built in its place, only 13,000 kilometres away.

Students and staff at Arlington, which recently celebrated its 40th anniversary and is transitioning to close, managed to raise over $14,000 to build a school in Kenya in partnership with international charity Free the Children.

As an International Baccalaureate school, Arlington has a mandate to train its students to have a social conscience and a sense of global responsibility.

Arlington principal Susanne Fata said the idea to build a school in Kenya as part of the school’s legacy aligned closely with the International Baccalaureate vision.

“It’s about learning about the world around us and asking how do we become leaders in that world and global citizens, which absolutely connects with the initiative with Free the Children,” she said.

“It’s also about looking at a situation and making it as positive as possible.”

Arlington was selected for closure last summer in light of space and enrolment issues with nearby elementary schools. Four of Arlington’s feeder schools — JR Wilcox, Cedarvale, Rawlinson and Humewood — will be expanded to accommodate the influx of students.

The school will remain open to grade 8 students for one more year so that they can graduate from Arlington, but isn’t accepting any new registrants.

The idea to leave a lasting legacy at Arlington arose shortly after staff discovered the school was closing. Students were eager to partner with Free the Children to leave their mark on the world, Fata said.

The school was told it would cost $8,500 to build a school in Kenya. In seven months, students and staff were able to surpass their goal by raising $9,504.09 through chocolate, popcorn and baked goods sales, as well as a silent auction.

If that wasn’t enough, the school applied for and received a $5,000 grant from Free the Children, for a final tally of $14,504.09.

Free the Children youth programs coordinator Hillay Nabi said the charity decided to give Arlington the ‘Big Dreamer’s Award’ due to their dedication and commitment to the project.

“The fact that they were able to build a new school and have a legacy left for them, it really shows their passion and dedication,” she said.

Nabi said it’s rare that a school manages to raise so much in a short period.

“For such a short amount of time, it’s spectacular,” she said. “The fact that they did it in one school year is pretty special.”

She said schools often take up to three years to reach a similar goal.

While $8,500 will go toward constructing the school, the remaining funds will be allocated to school supplies and desks.

Free the Children is not yet sure when and where the school will be built, but said they will select the specific community in the next few months.

Fata said the Kenya project, in addition to a partnership with a nearby food bank, allowed her school to live up to their official motto: “Learners. Leaders. Global Citizens.”

“Part of our school improvement plan this year was to not only do something local, but to also focus on a global agency,” she said. “That’s basically what the (International Baccalaureate) philosophy is all about.”