McMaster working with community to help Hamilton youth find pathways to post-secondary education
Local middle school students who are part of a program designed to help youth find pathways to post-secondary education, were recently on campus to share projects aimed making a positive difference in the Hamilton community.
The Grade 6 students were at McMaster to take part in 100 in 1 Day, a national movement that encourages citizens to take one small action to improve their city, all on the same day.
The students are part of the ABACUS initiative, a program developed by Hamilton Community Foundation (HCF) aimed at increasing access to post-secondary education for youth in the Hamilton community. McMaster is partnering with the HCF to support this program.
While on campus, the students showcased their projects which included activities to combat bullying through a ‘positive thoughts wall,’ and a campaign to raise awareness about the red fox. Projects also encouraged people to paint works of art on small canvases, and provided soil and seeds that people could plant and take home.
"These projects were imagined, planned, budgeted and executed by these students, 100%," says Jennifer Pearson, ABACUS Project Coordinator. "It’s such an amazing thing that these students were able to work together in groups to figure out how they wanted their projects to be displayed and how they wanted to engage people."
Pearson says, while these students are still many years away from applying to post-secondary institutions, it’s important to provide youth with early opportunities to get to know campus and start building a relationship with McMaster.
"Our research shows that middle school years are the years where there’s tipping point and that’s when students decide, either consciously or unconsciously, to pursue post-secondary education," she says. " I think it’s important for them to get to know the campus and feel comfortable on the campus. It starts to really spark something with the student."
Over the past several months, McMaster's Office of Community Engagement has been been working with the ABACUS initiative and other programs in the Hamilton community to arrange tours and visits that provide opportunities for Hamilton youth to explore campus and learn about the supports available at the university that can help them achieve their goals – both personal and academic.
“By supporting programs like the ABACUS initiative, we hope to build a strong foundation for youth to connect with the McMaster community,” says Heidebrecht, manager, Office of Community Engagement. “We hope that by gaining familiarity with various aspects of university life including the residence experience, exposure to the diverse academic paths available, and opportunities for recreation, youth will feel encouraged to develop a vision for their future post-secondary endeavors and strive towards it.”