The Marist Alternative Education Centre emerged out of the deepening concern felt by the Marist Brothers for students who had been suspended from schools and colleges, which placed them in an “at risk” situation as far as their educational and overall growth as persons were concerned.
The Marist Brothers, since their beginning as a brotherhood dedicated to education in 1817, have always been keenly aware of the plight of young people who find themselves disadvantaged in any way. This Alternative Education initiative fits with the founding intention of the Brothers, providing the opportunity for a fresh start for teenagers who have had difficulty with the ordinary education system and who are in danger of being disregarded.
During 1997 – 1998, two Marist Brothers worked as volunteer helpers in the alternative education centre of the Waipareira Trust at Henderson. On the basis of this experience, these men, joined by a third Brother, set up the Marist Alternative Education Centre as part of the services offered by Hato Petera College for students in danger of being suspended. These Brothers were qualified teachers with a wide experience in New Zealand schools. The Centre operated from a house on the Hato Petera campus where it received the name “Te Kaihī” (“The Fisherman”). The programme took into account the special needs of the students and aimed at developing new behaviour patterns that would enable them to return to mainstream classes.
In 2000, the Centre was relocated to Ellice Road in Glenfield. Gradually it has developed its facilities on this site, with the number of staff rising from three to five. The addition of a Marist Sister and a female tutor enabled girls to be admitted to the Centre as well as boys.
In 2007 the centre received its first lay leader, Mrs Vanessa Lawgen, who grew the academic standing of the programme. In 2011,for the first time, two students completed their NCEA Level One. 2012 saw another change, with the last Marist Brother on staff moving to a new ministry. The Marist Brothers still maintain a presence in the governance of the Centre and assist in some administration roles.
Today, the lay staff of the Marist Learning Centre are fully committed to the dream and mission of St Marcellin Champagnat and developing the hidden potential of our students.
To read more about St Marcellin Champagnat, visit the Marist Brothers website at www.maristbrothers.org.nz