'We base our teaching schedules around our community and that's what makes the big difference.' - Amanda Lennon

There's a school in Winnipeg that not only reflects its community, it is defined by it.

Peter Obendoerfer is the principal at Elwick Community School in The Maples. He says community is at the heart of everything they do. 

"Being able to get the entire family connected to the school, understanding what we are trying to do with the kids, having them involved in the decision-making and what's actually happening at the school is very important to the success of those kids," he explained.

The school even has a 'family room.' That's where the preschool program runs during the day. It houses the daycare before and after school. And during the lunch hour, it's where the drumming club meets.

Classroom Confidential

Joel Ramos was born in the Philippines and raised in Winnipeg. As a teacher at Elwick School, he helps new Filipino families. (Margaux Watt/CBC)

It's also where you can see the young faces of a changing neighbourhood. Many are new Canadians, making up about 10 percent of the school's population. Some are from the Philippines, some are from war-torn countries like Afghanistan. More than half the student population is Aboriginal. 

Obendoerfer says Elwick School is defined by its neighbours. Everyone who goes to school lives in the vibrant neighbourhood. There are no school buses.

And since the area is not wealthy, the Seven Oaks School Division has managed to keep school supplies cheap. They've even arranged free field trips for the kids.

"One of the issues we face is families who have not had a good experience with education. Parents or grandparents have been in residential schools, so trust for formal education is very difficult for them," said Obendoerfer.

"We need to listen too, as opposed to being prescriptive. There's a dialogue that's important to maintain with the families."

Classroom Confidential

Amanda Lennon is the community connector at Elwick School. (Margaux Watt/CBC)

Elwick School is very involved with adult education programming as well. Amanda Lennon grew up in the Maples and now has two boys attending Elwick School.

"We base our teaching schedules around our community and that's what makes the big difference," she explained. "We're all in this together. We're a family and we're working together on what we need to do."

Working together can include things like getting help with taxes, or taking a course that paves the way for a new job. 

When parents relocate to another school, kids often want to continue attending Elwick.

Lennon measures the school's success one kid at a time. 

"Every day that I run a program, when even one child shows up, that's a child we've saved. That makes me smile."

Hear Margaux Watt's report on CBC's Information Radio on Tuesday, March 11, between 6 and 9 a.m..