Each year, 6,000 youngsters come to the Brock campus to participate in Youth University programs. Behind the fun of those programs is a commitment by Youth University to program design, teaching and research focused on the social, emotional and academic development of Ontario youth.
Youth University has taken another step in its research mandate by establishing two new research prizes for Brock graduate students presenting at the annual Mapping the New Knowledges Graduate Student Research Conference.
Ashley Miller and Sierra Holtzheuser, both master’s students in Child and Youth Studies, were the inaugural winners of the $200 prizes. The competition was open to conference presenters whose projects explore issues pertaining to youth development and education.
Kate Cassidy, director of Youth University and a PhD candidate in Brock’s Educational Studies program, says the awards are based on Youth University’s overall philosophy on the development of the whole child.
“I’m so pleased that we have established two awards to support graduate students at Brock who are as committed as we are to helping children, adolescents and teenagers learn and grow as unique individuals,” says Cassidy.
“At the heart of our program are key values of developing the character, curiosity and sense of community that are necessary to develop strong, happy youth ready to meet their potential and contribute to the world in a positive way. The projects that Ashley and Sierra are pursuing are great examples of the kind of graduate research here at Brock that closely aligns to our mandate.”
Mike Plyley, Dean, Faculty of Graduate Studies, oversaw the adjudication process for the prizes at this year’s conference.
“This is the first research prize competition to be associated with our conference and Youth University is to be congratulated for its leadership and, more importantly, for recognizing the conference as a showcase of graduate research,” he says. “We look forward to announcing many more winners of Youth University prizes in the future.”
The conference was Holtzheuser’s first experience giving a conference presentation about her research.
“It is so important to have an opportunity to gain conference experience and help build your confidence and comfort as part of presentation skills,” she says. “I was thrilled to win. I believe that prizes such as this will help to raise the calibre of presentations.”
Miller and Holtzheuser are conducting Niagara-based research with a specific focus on children with, or at-risk for, learning disabilities. Miller is examining the significance of developing and implementing self-advocacy programs to enhance the social and emotional development of children who struggle with learning. Holtzheuser is investigating the efficacy of a literacy program, entitled Reading Rocks Junior, designed for supporting children at-risk for learning disabilities.
“The Niagara focus of their projects connects to Youth University programming that places a particular emphasis on supporting lifelong learning within our community,” adds Cassidy. “Recent studies show that Niagara is below the Canadian average for students who go on to pursue post-secondary studies.
“We hope to help change this by applying research to our practice and development of innovative enrichment initiatives,” she says. “We look to Brock graduate students to help us support and encourage Niagara youth as a way of leading them on to university, college or apprenticeship programs.”