Initiative will connect Niagara youth with post-secondary education

In a region where less than 10 per cent of the population has a university degree, Brock’s Youth University is helping reverse this trend with the Neighbourhood Access Initiative.

The research-based initiative is designed to support community development and increase the number of youth from priority neighbourhoods who go on to attend university or college.

The program received more than $65,000 from the Niagara Prosperity Initiative for two years of support. It is being co-ordinated in partnership with District School Board of Niagara and the Niagara Catholic District School Board.

“Research tells us one of the biggest factors influencing a student’s decision to pursue higher education is whether or not they know someone who has gone on to university or college,” said Kate Cassidy, director, Youth University. “It also tells us they are making these decisions at a young age.”

The program, led by Brock student volunteers, will follow youth from Grade 6 to high school. It involves mentoring, tutoring and after-school programming, as well as hands-on activities to identify and connect student interests with future careers, civic engagement and educational pathways.

Participating students and their parents will also have the opportunity to visit Brock and learn more about every aspect of planning for post-secondary education.

“This is a long-term commitment to help students from priority neighbourhoods in our region find their way in post-secondary education,” said Cassidy. “Along the way we hope to foster a passion for lifelong learning with these students that will help to develop their self-esteem, relationship and communication skills, critical thinking abilities and a sense of belonging.”

The Neighbourhood Access Initiative builds upon a pilot program that took place at Fort Erie Public Elementary School last year. The Prosperity Initiative funds will be allocated to support the programming underway in Fort Erie, and a new program in Niagara Falls.

“We hope this initiative brings attention to the issue of equitable access to post-secondary education in Niagara,” Cassidy said. “And an awareness of helping everyone in the communities across our region reach their greatest potential.”

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