Thunder Bay

Students get Armed Forces experience with Thunder Bay's Army Co-Op program

A group of Thunder Bay high school students will get a unique education this term, as they take part in the city's Army Co-OP program.

11 high school students taking part this term

Lieutenant-Colonel David Ratz, commanding officer of the Lake Superior Scottish Regiment, addresses teachers, parents, and students during the Army Co-Op Certification Ceremony at the Thunder Bay Armoury on Saturday. The Army Co-Op program gives high school students a chance to learn about the Canadian military while earning credits. (CBC News)

A group of Thunder Bay high school students will get a unique education this term, as they take part in the city's Army Co-OP program.

The program puts qualified Grade 11 or 12 students through military basic training at the Thunder Bay Armoury. It's been in operation for two decades, said Lieutenant-Colonel David Ratz, commanding officer of the Lake Superior Scottish Regiment.

"We were looking at different ways of attracting interest in the army reserve here in Thunder Bay," said Ratz, recalling the launch of the program 20 years ago.

Similar co-op programs were running in other parts of the country, so Ratz and some co-op teachers in the city worked out how to bring the program to Thunder Bay.

"It worked out that by having a co-op program where you earn two co-op credits, plus doing basic military training, was an ideal fit," Ratz said. "It's a very popular program. It allows students to explore the military as a possible career, and even if they don't, they've got a good part-time job out of it."

Basic training

Students will learn a number of skills, such as safe firearms handling and first aid during the course of their co-op Ratz said.

"They'll be here pretty much every afternoon for the whole semester doing some scheduled training activity," he said. "We run like the basic training course, until that training is done. And then they usually progress on to something like military driving training."

"They'll learn how to operate the various military vehicles we have here in town."

This term, 11 students will participate in the program, which officially starts Friday. However, Saturday, a certification ceremony was held at the Thunder Bay Armoury, giving students, parents, and teachers a chance to learn more about the co-op program, and what it entails.

One of those in attendance was Westgate Grade 12 student Kaycee Ostrowski, who's one of the 11 co-op students taking part this term.

A challenging program

"I've always wanted to be a soldier," she said. "It's just really good to get that sense of discipline."

"It's good to just challenge myself in those ways, and learn new skills."

Ostrowski said her interest comes through her research. Initially, she was interested in pursuing a career in policing, but the more she learned about the military, the more her interest grew.

"I just though the military is more about my country," she said. "I'm really proud to be Canadian."

As for the next few months, Ostrowski said she expects "hard physical training, mental training."

"It should be really good," she said. "I'm so happy to learn, and be enrolled in the Canadian Forces."

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