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Opening up education for non-traditional learners and those facing barriers

Laurier has sent a resounding message to non-traditional learners and those facing barriers: Postsecondary education is achievable. That’s something to jump for.

Jumpstart to Higher Education Program: Setting Children up for Future Success

Thanks to a visionary founding gift from the Astley Family Foundation, thousands of children in Waterloo Region have learned that they can pursue postsecondary education and attain the future they desire. Launched in 2013, the Jumpstart to Higher Education program is an early intervention initiative that uses engaging and fun curriculum to inform grade 7 and 8 students and their families about the pathways to postsecondary education. The program encourages students to choose the right courses early so they can take advantage of post-secondary options once they graduate from high school. When the Astley Family Foundation came on board in 2013, the programming reached 1,300 students. With the Foundation’s support, the program has grown each year, reaching more than 12,500 students in five years. In 2018, Manulife expanded the program with a generous commitment of $300,000, powering the program’s expansion to more schools in Waterloo Region and into Brantford. Because of donor support, students gain the confidence to dream big, know their options and set themselves up for future success.

“A post-secondary education can be the foundation of future financial stability for individuals and their families. Having control over one’s financial future sets the stage for success in many other areas of life. Programs like Jumpstart to Higher Education are a great way for Manulife to underscore this important message and help put young Canadians on the right track.”

– Manulife Canada President and CEO Michael Doughty

Access to University Program: Joining Forces with Local Organizations to Give Non-Traditional Learners a Chance

Similarly, the Access to University (A2U) program helps improve access to university for non-traditional learners, including new Canadians, mature students, folks from local Indigenous communities and those living on limited income. For the last two years, professors at Laurier have partnered with the Working Centre—a non-profit organization in Kitchener, Ontario that works with people who face unemployment and poverty. Young people who use the centre’s services are encouraged to apply to A2U, which prepares them for university-level learning through five free, half-credit introductory courses. Laurier staff and two representatives from the Working Centre select 15 applicants for the program each year. Through the A2U program, funded by the Lyle S. Hallman Foundation, participants learn how to build relationships, develop confidence and gain academic direction.

“We’re very grateful to the Hallman Foundation for providing full bursary support for participants, so that they can pursue their dreams of a post-secondary education. One of our goals at Laurier is to build a diverse 21st century university by educating a larger proportion of students from outside the traditional cohort of Ontario high school graduates. This program will aid us in enhancing diversity at the university and meeting a real need in our community.”

– Laurier Dean of Arts Richard Nemesvari

Walls to Bridges Program: Creating a Community of Learners from Inside and Outside Prison

This unparalleled initiative brings post-secondary classes to inmates inside a correctional setting, connecting inmates with Laurier students and professors. The program builds a stronger community by reducing rates of recidivism, dispelling myths about incarcerated people and empowering all students with the tools for a brighter future.

The Walls to Bridges program enables incarcerated students to earn credit for university-level courses while studying alongside student peers from Laurier.

Now, more incarcerated women can take university classes, increasing their job opportunities upon release and fuelling their motivation to pursue education after prison.

By creating a community of learners from both inside and outside the prison community, the Lyle S. Hallman Foundation is helping to break down social and educational barriers and giving hope to incarcerated learners.

“W2B stands out as a Canadian gem, because it exemplifies courageous and innovative ways to expand mutual understanding, intellectual advancement, empathy and respect in Canadian Society.”

– Lawrence Hill, author of The Book of Negroes and the Illegal