Sierra Holtzheuser, Master’s student, Child and Youth Studies

Faculty of Graduate Studies

Sierra Holtzheuser, Master’s student, Child and Youth Studies

Sierra Holtzheuser focuses her research on supporting young children at-risk for learning disabilities. She is the recipient of several donor-based awards as well as an Ontario Graduate Scholarship.

Sierra’s research story

I work in the community, and partner with the Learning Disabilities Association of Niagara. Together, we are working to develop a literacy program for four- and five-year-old children who are struggling with reading. The program, called Reading Rocks Junior, is couched in the notion of prevention. Our ultimate goal is to prevent reading issues before they become problematic.

Typically, reading problems aren’t even diagnosed until grade 4 and by that time it’s far too late – kids are already two or three years behind their classmates. Our objective is to prevent this problem by beginning remediation before that gap occurs. We hope that schools and community agencies can use the data that emerges from my research to reform the way they support struggling and reluctant readers.

A benefit of this research is that we are able to offer an emergent literacy program at no-cost to over 40 families from across the Niagara region. As a result of my research this year, the Learning Disabilities Association of Niagara is going to be offering Reading Rocks Junior as part of their regular programming for the next two years.

Graduate awards and the Brock experience

Recently I was very fortunate to receive scholarships in support of my graduate research. Receiving these scholarships has allowed me to thrive in my academic and research endeavors. I think that I speak for all of my peers when I say that the generosity of our government funding bodies, Brock’s own internal scholarship programs, and our community donors enable us to focus on our research without financial stress and the burden of finding external employment. These funding programs are appreciated by our students more than I can express in words.

Personally, receiving scholarships and awards has allowed me to dedicate my time and attention to the development and implementation of Reading Rocks Junior and in turn contribute to our Niagara community.

My experience at Brock has been fulfilling and enjoyable. This is largely due to the relationships that I have developed with my supervisor, the faculty and the graduate community. Over the past year, their continuous support has allowed me to participate in a number of experiences and opportunities.

Most recently, I was invited to present my research at the Love of Literacy conference for the Halton District School Board. This month, I am also presenting my research at the 2012 Congress for the Social Sciences and Humanities. These opportunities are ones that I might not have had the confidence to participate in, without the support of our faculty.

My experiences along with the relationships that I’ve developed have made my graduate experience at Brock challenging, rewarding and unforgettable.


award-winning graduate students

Graduate students, above from left, Irene Podolak, Drew Marquardt and Sierra Holtzheuser, spoke about their research and the importance of awards and scholarships in supporting their success at the 2012 Graduate Student Awards and Donor Recognition Celebration.