LAC LAC BICHE - Young area residents will again be steered in the right direction at a unique driver training program taking place this week.
Lac La Biche Family and Community Support Services (FCSS), in partnership with local organizations, is once again running a free all-day introductory course at the Bold Center to get youth 14 and up ready to take the Alberta Class Learner’s License exam, said Martin—who is also the instructor for the course.
“We were all saying how hard it is for kids it seems to get their learners license and how it could be a drawback for them as they’re growing up. We all came together to make this program possible,” said FCSS Outreach worker and program instructor Christine Martin.”
The course, which has been reoccurring in the community since 2018, is vital to supporting teens who may need encouragement or help to study for the test. Martin says that while some kids may not need the course, others enjoy the chance to learn with others and share the experience.
“I have probably taught 30 classes over the years and a couple of hundred kids have gone through the course…some kids don’t need this course; they can take that book and look online and figure it out or have their parents help them too, but not every family is like that.”
The learners manual, says Martin, is written at a university level which can be difficult at times for youth to comprehend or tackle on their own. The class is an opportunity to support the kids as they learn the material, she said, explaining the local program as an activity-filled way to enjoy the studying process.
“It’s not like just sitting there, reading the book or just me talking; there are videos, little games and different interactive activities…We have little Tonka Cars if you want to learn how a four-way stop works and traffic circles, we are going to do that,” she said, adding that fundamentals of driving, like safety measures, school zones and highway driving will all be included in lessons and quizzes.”
The idea is to simplify the big test and to take some of the worries or stress out of the process, she says.
“It's written at a university level, it’s not written for a 14-year-old kid, so we spend a lot of time saying it is hard, it is difficult but at the same time there is no other way for you to get your learners. I know it’s going to be hard and it might take you six times to pass, but we tell them you have to get through this step to be able to drive,” Martin said.
Over the years the course has been quite successful, helping dozens of youngsters pass the driving exam.
“The last session we ran, about 80 per cent of the kids got their learners within the next couple of weeks,” Martin said.
While those kinds of statistics are important, Martin says it’s also about instilling a sense of comfort and pride in the youngsters, giving them the best chance to understand the test, learn in a helpful environment, and to pass it.
A 14-year-old with a learner’s permit is on their way to even more opportunities — and that’s a big goal for the youngsters.
“To be able to be fully independent let's face it; you're going to have to drive if you live in a rural area especially,” said Martin with a smile.
Due to continuing COVID restrictions, the driver training program has been reduced in size this year, but organizers hope to run more sessions in the coming months. The upcoming session is full, with 15 youngsters already registered and more names on a waiting list.
Anyone interested in joining the waiting list for the next series of sessions can go to the Lac La Biche County FCSS department’s social media pages for details.
Martin hopes that when pandemic protocols ease more trainers will be available to offer more programs to the growing number of local youngsters looking to get their learner’s license.
“It would be nice to be able to reach more kids,” she said, adding that it has been a very rewarding experience to train the participants. “I’m very passionate about this course because I’ve seen it work…you can really see the pride in the kid's faces when they do pass.”