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May 31, 2006 10:06 AM

Conestoga Initiative to Address Needs of At-Risk Youth

Students and Professor

A grant of $149,973 from Ontario’s Ministry of Research and Innovation will allow Conestoga College to pursue a three-year pilot program to help at-risk youth from midwestern Ontario consider the opportunities they can realize from science and technology education and careers.

Titled “How It’s Made; How It Works - Understanding the Connection Between Math and Science and the World Around Us”, the Conestoga initiative is being funded through the province’s Youth Science and Technology Outreach Program (YSTOP).

By engaging with faculty, one-to-one student mentors and local industries, selected at-risk youth will take part in activities such as academic lectures, guest speaker presentations, hands-on practical experience, job shadowing and field trips to local employers as part of their one-week intensive participation in the initiative. The aim is to provide information and insight about the continuum that connects math, science and technology education with college-based research and teaching, and, ultimately, the products, processes and services used in the world.

“Colleges are uniquely positioned to provide exposure to a broad range of science and technology experiences,” says Angela Vuk, Conestoga’s Associate Director of Applied Research. “We offer everything from baccalaureate programs in nursing and engineering to skilled trades and apprenticeship programs. Therefore, we can provide YSTOP participants with valuable information they can use to make positive academic and career choices.”

Each selected group of YSTOP participants will be involved in a one-week program dealing with either two of six technology areas or a cluster of health sciences fields. Conestoga has scheduled these one-week blocks for mid-February and mid-March over the three-year period (2007-2009) covered by the project grant.

Participants will be identified and referred from a number of local school boards (Waterloo Catholic, Wellington Catholic, Upper Grand District, Avon Maitland District and Huron-Perth Catholic) as well as from the Job Connect program operated by Conestoga.

Experiential choices made by the participants will come from opportunities in mechanical and manufacturing technology, construction technology, electronics and computer technology, precision machining, welding technology and health sciences (nursing, dietetics and therapist occupations such as respiratory, occupational and physiotherapy).

For students who reside close to a Conestoga location, daily transportation will be provided; for students from a distance, residential accommodations will be arranged.

Vuk comments, “We’ve chosen the one-week, residential format to provide a greater exposure to science and technology programs than would be possible in a one-day workshop. This will allow for greater interaction between participants and mentors, and the more engaged these youth become in the mentoring experience, the more likely the initiative will have a positive impact.”

YSTOP is providing nearly $3.8 million in funding to 32 projects throughout Ontario over a three-year period to foster youth-based science awareness in fields such as robotics, life sciences, environmental science, engineering and theoretical physics.

CONTACT: Angela Vuk, 519-748-5220, ext. 2267, avuk@conestogac.on.ca

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