In a region where just 18 per cent of the population has achieved university as their highest level of education – compared to a national average of 26 per cent – Brock University’s Youth University is working with community partners to help boost these numbers in Niagara.
The group’s research-based Neighbourhood Access Initiative is designed to support community development and grow the number of youth who go on to attend university or college.
This winter, Youth University student volunteers from Brock will mentor youths from Grades 6 to 10 at Fort Erie’s Peace Bridge Public School and Fort Erie Secondary School. The mentoring occurs in conjunction with a program designed to raise awareness about post-secondary education (PSE) options, support readiness and assist with financial literacy.
The initiative is supported by a $3,500 grant from the United Way of Niagara Falls and Greater Fort Erie. The funds will be used to supply food for youth involved in the program as well as weekly transportation to the schools for the Brock student mentors. Return transportation for the Fort Erie participants will be provided by local company Dunn The Mover.
The United Way’s Carol Stewart-Kirkby says they are “proud to support an initiative working to achieve equitable access to PSE in our neighbourhoods.”
Now in its fourth year, the program involves tutoring and after-school programming, as well as hands-on activities to identify and connect students’ interests with future careers, civic engagement and educational pathways such as apprenticeships, college and university.
“It plants great seeds for the future, builds confidence and it has reinforced the idea that university will follow high school for my son,” says one parent involved in last year’s program.
The program was developed from research on equitable access to post-secondary education in Niagara and in consultation with both regional school boards.
“Having the support of Brock student mentors will build upon the efforts of our school staff to encourage, motivate and support our students as they pursue all their goals and ambitions,” says Cindy Kohinski, principal of Peace Bridge Public School. “We’re very pleased to be involved with this initiative.”
“We want to expose all of our students to the possibilities and options that are ahead of them and we want them to experience it early,” says Kate Cassidy, director of Youth University. “In today’s fast-changing, knowledge-based economy, access to post secondary education is an important building block for success.”