Above: Tollgate principal Yvan Brochu joins students Collin and Marcel in the push-up challenge.

Strength in Mind as Tollgate Pushes for Mental Health 

TUESDAY, FEB. 13, 2024


tudents and staff at Tollgate Technological Skills Centre are taking part in the Push-Up Challenge, an initiative of the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) this month. The 23-day challenge aims to increase physical activity and well-being together, while increasing knowledge around mental health. 

“Our goal in getting involved is to prioritize the mental and physical health of our students and staff, and encourage being more physically active each day, which we know is strongly connected to well-being and learning,” explains Yvan Brochu, principal at Tollgate, who said the inspiration struck when he saw a social media post from CMHA introducing the challenge. “Physical activity helps increase energy, cognitive functioning, and inspires other healthy choices in life, and in taking part, we’ll also be incorporating a daily fact about mental health, helping remove some of the stigma around the topic.”

Brochu and vice-principal Tracy Hale initially floated the idea at a staff meeting and had several staff members sign on for the challenge right away. They set a fundraising goal of $200 in support of CMHA Brant Haldimand Norfolk, and have already raised double that as more have gotten involved. 

“There’s definitely a strong sense of team spirit around this,” added Brochu.

Before hitting the gym though, a quick math lesson: the challenge to participants is to complete 2,000 push-ups (or sit-ups, squats, jumping-jacks or other exercises) over the 23-day period, gradually increasing the number of reps each day. So far, 11 staff members and 12 students have taken on the challenge, meaning that by the end of February, Tollgate will have completed around 50,000 push-ups collectively. 

“When you’re doing the push-ups, your body and mind are only focused on that,” said Collin, a Tollgate student in Grade 9 who is aiming for even more than the 2,000-push-up target. “You don’t have the distractions of all the other things you have to do.”

The gym at Tollgate is the place to be at lunch when any student is welcome to join in, and the space will be open for a variety of physical activities. The initiative supports Grand Erie’s collective priorities of learning, well-being and belonging. 


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