Through the summer school, Canadian students explore different paths to higher education

Faith Robinson never really liked high school. When the 16-year-old Nipissing First Nation student fell behind in some of her classes, she was encouraged to take summer school to make up the difference.

Now, as one of more than a dozen students who completed a two-week, dual-credit program at Canadore College in North Bay, Ont., last July, Robinson is one credit closer to his high school diploma – and she has another credit towards a post-secondary degree at a local college, encouraging study at a higher level.

“I took the course and surprisingly it was pretty fun. I liked it. I made some new friends,” Robinson said.

While taking classes on campus, Robinson and his peers got a glimpse of the academic world beyond high school, where compulsory course loads and a highly structured environment can discourage at-risk students from applying to college.

That’s why the summer school programs at Canadore University and Dalhousie University in Halifax are designed to motivate high school students to apply to college, showing them different paths to post-secondary success – but these Initiatives need to reach children even earlier to be effective, expert says.

Courses largely set in high school, according to an expert

Most students begin to consider college and university near the end of high school. This delay is too late to correct the course for students who are not on a clear path to higher education, said Karen Robson, associate professor and Ontario Research Chair in Academic Achievement and Youth at risk at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ont.

“By the time students are in high school, research has shown that their pathways are largely fixed,” Robson said.

“So if we’re trying to encourage young people who have all the characteristics of low university and college attendance already kind of mapped onto their identity, it’s a bit too late to do that when they’re 16, 17, 18 year .”

Robinson, left, and Michel are seen during their geomatics class, during which they learned skills in navigation and cartography. The two high school students completed a dual credit summer program at Canadore College earlier this week. (Yvon Theriault/CBC)

According to Robson, three main factors tend to predict a student’s path to university: socioeconomic status; whether their parents attended a post-secondary institution; and, especially for those in Ontario, if a student is in the applied stream (for practical courses) versus the academic stream (theory-based).

The Canadore program is effective because it encourages all types of students to apply, Robson said — regardless of their grades or whether they know what they want to do professionally.

“What I liked about this program [as it was described] it’s that… it doesn’t matter what your grades are, it doesn’t matter if you don’t know how to do this paperwork. It’s okay if you don’t know what you want to be when you grow up. It’s good, come and discover this environment.”

The goal of Canadore’s program is to expose young students to college while providing the support they receive in high school, said Rebecca Gould, high school teacher for Nipissing-Parry Sound Catholic School Board which facilitates the dual credit program.

Rebecca Gould, a high school teacher for the Nipissing-Parry Sound Catholic School Board who facilitates Canadore College’s dual-credit program, said the program can be life-changing for students who are unfamiliar with academia. (Yvon Theriault/CBC)

“They have the security of having a high school teacher there, making sure they’re there on time, that they’ve done their homework, that the homework is turned in correctly – things that they don’t get when they’re in college, but they go to high school,” Gould said.

“So it’s kind of a nice pairing between the two opportunities.”

Students who signed up for the free program took a geomatics course, learning to navigate the woods with a compass for one week, and a fitness and lifestyle management course for another, with sessions workout at the campus gym.

“I loved it,” said Nick Michel, a 15-year-old student from North Bay entering Grade 10. “I am only one [person]. I don’t like to write or sit down to do things – I’m constantly on the move.”

“I felt a lot older walking through the halls of college,” he added.

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Useful programs for first generation students

Gould, who has been in the Canadore program for four years, said it can be life-changing for teens unfamiliar with academia, especially those who will be first-generation students.

“Ultimate success is when a student completes the dual credit course and is inspired to complete their high school credits with a different attitude, with a new future in mind, and then continue to take the course and succeed,” she said. .

Having been a first-generation college student herself, Robson said interventions are especially important for children who don’t have a history of post-secondary education in their family.

“They all have to figure it out themselves, and it’s stressful. If you’re particularly from a racial minority that isn’t represented on campus, it’s even more alienating,” she said. declared. “There are [fewer] Resources. There are [fewer] ways to know how to navigate these complex social structures that you have no experience with.”

Last July, Dalhousie University in Halifax established two adjacent pathway programs for Indigenous students and for Black or African Nova Scotian students – two groups historically underrepresented in health sciences in Atlantic Canada. . (Mark Crosby/CBC)

Although Canadore’s dual credit program gives students a head start in getting the credits they need to graduate, “I would say the social experience of being there is everything. as important, to know that you belong there, that it’s not this alien place, that you just pretend to be in,” Robson said.

Dalhousie University in Halifax has established two adjacent pathway programs for Indigenous students and for Black or African Nova Scotian students – two historically underrepresented groups in health sciences in Atlantic Canada.

Deion Coward, a 14-year-old student from Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, entering grade 9, said he was interested in the program because it encourages black and indigenous people to pursue careers in medical fields.

“I just learned everything, and for me, that’s what interests me the most… Because I don’t really want to have a job that I don’t like or and then I have to flip [to] college and learn something else,” he said.

“It’s about catching them young”

2016 Census data shows that while more First Nations, Métis and Inuit people performed better in school, their non-Indigenous counterparts were 90% likely to have completed high school , while Aboriginal youth were 70% susceptible.

A more recent Statistics Canada The Youth and Education Report indicates that Black youth (27%) and non-visible minority youth (23%) were less likely than other groups to have a university degree.

“For us, it’s about catching them young,” said Timi Idris, program manager of Dalhousie University’s PLANS (Advancing Health Leadership for African Nova Scotians) program. (Mark Crosby/CBC)

“For us, it’s about catching them young,” said Timi Idris, program manager of Dalhousie University’s PLANS (Advancing Health Leadership for African Nova Scotians) program.

The program combined lab-based workshops — like learning how to take blood pressure or how to mold a tooth — with cultural activities, like indigenous crafts and African drumming. Students also had the chance to network with Black and Indigenous professionals working in the medical field.

“It’s mostly about representation and making them see that they can do it and that we’re going to support them and hold their hand through the process,” Idris said.

Such was the case for Nora Harquail, a 14-year-old Mi’kmaq student from Eel River Bar First Nation, who said a career in the health sciences felt within her reach after participating in the program. of Dalhousie summer camp.

“I’m quite interested in the medical field. I’m also very interested in other things. But it’s kind of a way to see if I can really get into this stuff,” Harquail said. “And I really think I can now.”