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The Toronto Sun CareerConnection

Youth Force
OYAP a cut above for this student

By Aunie Edwards
Special to The Toronto Sun

To assume that one education formula can be equally effective for every student would be to assume that every student shares the same set of talents, interests and ambitions. The York Catholic District School Board knows better and follows the theory that diversity in the student population dictates a matched diversity in education.
"I'm learning client relations, which is key to this industry," says Stephanie Terzo, hairstylist apprentice, standing, at You Salon

With this in mind, the York Catholic Board encourages its schools to reach beyond the classroom. For example, by collaborating with business and a government initiative called the Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program (OYAP), more students can be served more effectively.

Sponsored by the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities, OYAP is an opportunity for young students to apprentice in a trade while gaining high school credits.

"Students can learn a trade under the supervision of an experienced businessperson," says Connie Ciarallo, co-op co-ordinator at St. Robert Catholic High School. "The apprenticeship gives kids a valuable connection to their chosen field, but it also teaches transferable life skills -- the result is a high school graduate with a better ability to face the realities of the workforce."

Stephanie Terzo is one such student. A senior at St. Robert C.H.S., Terzo has already completed one term as a hairstylist apprentice with an award-winning salon in Richmond Hill called You Salon and Spa.

"In a carefully monitored environment, Stephanie is gaining real work experience in her field of interest. She is excelling with OYAP," Ciarallo says.

Terzo enjoys considerable support from her school and the entire York Catholic Board, but it takes an equal commitment from a community spirited business for the OYAP initiative to achieve its mandate. Enter Luigi Di Tacchio, co-owner of You Salon and Spa and Terzo's supervisor.

"Luigi's been a true mentor," Ciarallo says. "He saw Stephanie's potential from the start."

"It's great at You Salon -- this whole program is excellent," Terzo says. "I'm learning client relations, which is key in this industry. I sometimes assist the stylists in colour and highlights -- and basically I'm just taking it all in by observing."

Says Di Tacchio, "Stephanie is interested, willing and capable. This is a business that requires passion to be truly successful, and I'm particularly glad to help the ones who have it."

And he would know -- Di Tacchio has been helping apprentices for years. "I really believe in OYAP -- in fact, I'm a graduate of the apprenticeship program myself," Di Tacchio says.

Employed by Di Tacchio this summer, Terzo will return to St. Robert in the fall for her final year and is already scheduled to work part time at You Salon and Spa.

After graduation, OYAP will apply her skills learned and hours worked toward the next level of her apprenticeship.

"After high school, I'll take a one-year course in hairstyling -- that will be combined with my hands-on apprenticing hours, which will make me eligible to certify. After that, I can begin the process of building a clientele," Terzo says.

Through OYAP and community, hard work and a flexible approach to education, Terzo's future is clear and bright. Says Ciarallo, "Stephanie has found the kind of confidence that people get when they can see themselves fulfilling life's goals."

(Aunie Edwards ( is a Guelph-based freelance writer.)

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