Giving Kids a Chance to THRIVE

Photo credit:thriveschool.ca
Jason Gregor
15 days ago
What I love most about Edmonton and area is how many people are willing to help others. It happens in so many ways. Sports fans in Edmonton will gladly drop $20 or more, every game for a chance to win the 50/50, but most don’t do it to win, they do it to help the various charities that benefit from the money. No other city in the country raises money at sporting events like we see in Edmonton.
We are three days away from the Edmonton Oilers beginning their journey to the Stanley Cup. You are likely feeling equally excited and stressed. Those emotions are why we all love sports. They get amplified in the playoffs and the rollercoaster of emotions for fans, and coaches, players and management, increases significantly. Before you jump on that ride, I’d like to focus on a team that is making a massive difference in our community and in the lives of many children.
Many of the best plans start with a dream. Every NHL player was once a young kid dreaming about being in the NHL. And thousands of other young kids had the same dream. Those dreams are nurtured at practice, playing mini sticks in the basement, shooting pucks in the garage or on the street, and often through many hours at the outdoor rink playing with friends. You need some luck, a lot of support and an immense amount of skill to play in the NHL, but I doubt anyone makes it to the NHL without having that dream as a youngster. It is fuels their passion.
A few weeks ago, I spoke with someone with a very different dream than being in the NHL, but one that is incredibly important. Not only did I learn about his dream, but I saw the end result and I was blown away.
I’ve known Jared Priestner for over a decade. We’ve done business in the past and he’s supported Gregor’s Grads, but a few weeks ago when I reached out to him about our Foundation, I was pleasantly surprised to hear about the wonderful school he and everyone at Go Auto has built.
Jared and Go Auto started a K-6 chartered school called THRIVE. They support children, and their families, who need it the most. Kids who otherwise might never be able to dream about graduating from high school or going to University or College.
“We’ve always thought that the best way to help society was to help kids, and that’s why we have focused on kids for the majority of our charity endeavors,” said Priestner. “I’ve had a dream since I was about 25 to open a school and help kids. A few years ago, I saw Lebron James open up his ‘I promise’ school in Ohio and I loved it. I thought if Lebron can do it, we can do it. I wasn’t sure how we would, but then one day while I was riding my bike, I noticed the Thrive location was for sale. We bought it and the dream became a reality.”
Thrive Elementary is located at 10735 McQueen Road. It opened this past September with just over 100 students from kindergarten to grade six. They have room for close to 170 students for the 2024-25 school year.
What was the motivation to start the school?
“I just wanted to create an environment where kids from less-than-ideal socio-economic situations could get a best-in-class education,” said Priestner. “Providing the meals, transportation, after school care etc. was just a way to remove every barrier to making that happen.”
Like all public schools, Thrive’s educational program is funded by Alberta Education grants. Supplementary funding is provided by the Thrive Charter School Foundation, which receives donation funding from the Go Auto Group and the Mike Priestner family of Edmonton.
The children have breakfast, lunch and supper at THRIVE. They arrive at 8 a.m. and can stay until 6 p.m., depending on their parents’ work schedules. They are in school until 3:15 p.m., and then they are provided after-school care with a variety of programs that stimulate them mentally, physically and emotionally.
A few weeks ago, Priestner gave me a tour of THRIVE and I met their principal, Donna Rankin-Anderson. The school is amazing. It is very bright with windows in each room. The children don’t have conventional desks, instead they have square tables that resemble small picnic tables. The kids eat breakfast, lunch and dinner together, and these desks provide a more relaxed and comfortable setting when eating and learning.
As we toured the school, what caught my attention the most was how personable and confident these kids were. Many of them walked up to me, introduced themselves and offered to shake my hand. I interact with a lot of children through coaching, and not many young kids possess these skills. Being at THRIVE has altered the paths of their lives.
The school’s motto is “Building curious minds, confident hearts, big futures,” and I experienced it firsthand during our encounters. It was great to see.


After the tour, I wanted to learn more and sat down with Rankin-Anderson.
Gregor: Thrive is a very unique school. Can you explain your philosophy and how it will help the students?
Rankin-Anderson: Our mission and vision is to eliminate opportunity gaps that may exist for families due to financial and time constraints. As a public charter school, we teach the Alberta Curriculum with an authentic emphasis on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). In addition to this, we provide FREE yellow bus, breakfast, lunch and after-school snacks. Our students come to school for an extended day (8 a.m. -6 p.m.) which includes a full day of learning like they would in a regular school, but then we have free extra-curricular programming in visual arts, performing arts, athletics and STEM. Having our students here beyond the traditional school day allows them to participate in extra-curricular activities that they may not be able to participate in due to cost or a parent/guardian’s work schedule.
Further to this, we endeavour to build the capacity of the families through opportunities like our monthly family dinners and our partnership with Jasper Place Family Resource Centre. With an on-site facilitator, she is able to support families with situations beyond the realm of education through connections with social agencies, triple P parenting classes, or helping them sign up for things like the city’s leisure access pass, etc.
We also thought about some other big costs at the beginning of the school year, so we provided each student with a Thrive pack which includes indoor shoes, hoodie, t-shirt, sweats, toque and a backpack. We also provide all school supplies and field trips and experiences that we bring into the school are paid for by the foundation. There is no cost for the families.
Gregor: How can parents apply? What perimeters do they need to meet to have their children attend in the fall of 2024? 
Rankin-Anderson: In order to keep our bus ride times under 30 minutes, to be eligible for Thrive, you must live within the Thrive Zone. (here is a picture of the zone).
To meet our desire to eliminate opportunity gaps and alleviate some financial stresses for families, there is also an income threshold. We encourage families to reach out to us at to discuss their financial situation if they are above the threshold as we understand that everyone may have a particular circumstance that would make them a great candidate to attend Thrive. **You can send an email to info@thriveschool.ca.
Gregor: As an educator what excites you about Thrive?
Rankin-Anderson: Every single educator in any school is trying their absolute best with what they have been provided to meet their needs as an educator and for their students, but at THRIVE, being such a small organization, we are able to see use the dollars that we are provided from Alberta Education and the Thrive Charter School Society to fill the gaps. Being in a small school environment has also allowed us to truly build relationships with our students and their families. We have also staffed our site in a way that we are hoping to address the wholistic needs of our students by having additional support staff such as: a part-time intervention teacher to support literacy and numeracy deficiencies, a full-time emotional behavioural specialist to support the emotional learning needs of our students, floating educational assistant support and weekly speech and language pathologist support.
Thankfully our mission and vision has drawn in a lot of volunteer support from community members who want to be part of what we do here and help build connections with our students.
Being able to be part of start-up like Thrive allowed the opportunity for us to share our voice in the construction of the school. Everything at Thrive is intentional, from the flooring to the décor, to the classroom furniture, the resources and the staffing. A small organization like Thrive gives us the chance to truly be a team. Executive members like the chair/founder, the vice-chair and the superintendent are in the building on a regular basis to help support the work we do every day. We have a great team here at Thrive and we can’t wait to see what the future holds as we hope to increase enrolment. We still have some spots available, but to be able to see the direct impact of what we strive to do here, spaces are limited.


Education is the one of the greatest gives you can give someone. Everyone deserves a proper education, but we all deserve to feel love and be given a chance to succeed. Not only are the students at Thrive getting an education, but they are learning so many life skills that will help them to become positive contributors in society. It also is giving them confidence, and just like in hockey, the more confidence you have the better chance for success.
These kids are thriving, and they hope the Oilers have similar success starting Monday.

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