“The democratic nature of ALPHA influenced me one hundred percent. It makes a huge difference to people to feel included and have a sense of ownership.”
What was the most important part of Alpha Alternative School for me? As a young person, being treated with respect by the teachers. The way the school was set up to have all students, teachers, and parents take part in the running of the school. Being included in hiring teachers, making and changing the school rules, all being responsible for cleaning and caring for our school. That no matter how young a student was, we all deserved equal respect and say in how the school operated. I learned to care about every physical environment I am in, even if it is not my home; I still need to care for where I am. I learned to care about all the people I am with, no matter what age, no matter what differences we have. Growing up with a sense of self respect and inclusion. And coming out of school with less hopelessness than the students I met who went to regular schools. We were encouraged to try things, create things. We were introduced to challenging projects above our ‘grade levels.’ We were treated like we were smart.
I went to alternative high schools, then Trent University, where I completed a three-year bachelor’s degree. I worked in a warehouse for bunch of years and then went back to school to study auto mechanics. I completed four years of apprenticeship and achieved my official certification as an Automotive Technician. I have also helped to get more women included in the automotive trade. We have three women working at my garage, more than any automotive garage that I know of anywhere.
The democratic nature of ALPHA influenced me one hundred percent. It makes a huge difference to people to feel included and have a sense of ownership.
Having a community is the most important thing in life. As the world gets harder and harder and faster and faster, having a community of people to rely on will be what saves us. Not having stuff or a lot of money. I also really care about what happens to our natural environment. I care about social justice and the treatment of young people.
I know that because of going to ALPHA, some of my hard skills, like math, spelling, and essay writing are not as strong as other students who went to regular school. But I would never trade the human skills I learned at ALPHA and have carried with me ever since. These are the skills that it is harder to learn later, whereas the hard skills are way easier to acquire any time.
— Jennifer Ferrari
Colour photo by Michael Barker
Black and white photo by F. Robert Openshaw
Text and Interview by Ariel Fielding
- ALPHA 1973 to 1984
- ages 4–14
- Studied at Trent University.
- Works as an Automotive Technician.