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The Jumpstart to Higher Education program is an early intervention program that targets grade 7 and 8 students in the Waterloo Region. It focuses on elementary schools in neighbourhoods where there is a significantly higher proportion of families who are at-risk socially or economically. We reach about 3,000 students annually with this program and visit approximately 20 schools.

The Jumpstart to Higher Education program was created with four main objectives:

  • Help students and their families understand how a postsecondary education can be achievable.
  • Provide information for students and their families that assist with decisions in grade 8 about streams they choose for high school.
  • Provide information about available funding for postsecondary education.
  • Demystify postsecondary education by providing students with financial need an opportunity to experience a university setting through the Laurier JUMP program.

Jumpstart the Conversation

The primary goal of the program is to jumpstart the conversation around postsecondary education. The interactive program teaches grade 7 and 8 students about the various pathways of education (apprenticeship, college and university) and how to the fund their education (scholarships, bursaries and government funds). Students learn about the variety of career options and the importance of selecting courses in grade 9 to keep postsecondary options open to them when they graduate in grade 12.   

Educating Teachers

A secondary goal of the program is to educate teachers about current postsecondary pathways and funding opportunities. Most teachers are graduates of the university experience and have little or limited knowledge of the other postsecondary options available for their students. As well, their knowledge is frozen in time. There is very little, if any, opportunity for an elementary teacher to gain up-to-date knowledge about the current pathways of postsecondary education and funding through their professional education system. Jumpstart to Higher Education bridges this gap. Teachers are active participants in this program and are provided with informational materials to incorporate the topics discussed in class assignments, and to continue the conversation throughout the school year.  

The program was designed by a former principal, Jan McPhedran McLeod, and it aligns with the “Creating Pathways to Success” initiative launched by the Ontario Ministry of Education in 2014.     

Educating Parents

The third goal of the program is to reach and educate parents. Parents who have some form of postsecondary education are more likely to support and encourage their students to pursue postsecondary education. This program targets communities where there is a significantly higher proportion of families who do not have postsecondary education.

To reach the parents, an incentive was created to encourage students to begin the conversation with their parents. Each year one class in the Waterloo Region will win a bursary to attend the JUMP program (a two-day overnight program) at Laurier and full program costs are covered. To determine eligibility for this enrichment opportunity, we use a screening process where principals are required to complete the following questions:

  • Does your school population include a significant number of students from low income families?
  • How supportive and actively involved in their children’s education are most parents in your school community?
  • Are there a significant number of parents in your school community who do not have a postsecondary education?
  • Do you have a large number of English Language Learner (ELL) students in your school?
  • What unique needs are present in your school (e.g. life skills, learning disabilities, ASD, behaviour, enrichment)?
  • Do you think the Jumpstart program would be supported by your staff and be beneficial to your teachers? 

All students in the class must return the signed form found in the student's workbook in order to be eligible for this opportunity. If more than one class is eligible for this opportunity each year, we conduct a draw to select the winning class and the other eligible classes are provided with an opportunity to attend the one-day program or receive a pizza party. 

Third Party Evaluation

A fourth goal and very important feature of this program is the inclusion of a third-party evaluation process. Funds have been assigned to Poverty Reduction Research Group in the Community, Research, Learning and Action (CCRLA) housed at Laurier to evaluate the program. The initial evaluation and research studies were led by Dr. Terry Mitchell with the support of a graduate or doctoral student. Since 2016, the evaluation and research studies have been led by Dr. Ciann Wilson. The research reports demonstrate the impacts and benefits of the program for students and their families. 

Significant efforts and progress have been made to work toward a model that would see the program owned by the Waterloo Region School Board and they would be responsible for disseminating it with teachers in other boards across the province. Ideally, this program has the potential to be a province-wide initiation and conversations to reach this aspiration are beginning to take place.

The program was launched through the generous support and funds from a well established and successful family foundation in the Waterloo Region. The Jumpstart to Higher Education Program is funded by The Astley Family Foundation.

Jumpstart to Higher Education

Jan McPhedran McLeod, Program Coordinator

E: jmcphedranmcleod@wlu.ca
T: 519.884.0710 x2220

Gail Forsyth, Associate Director: Retention and Learning

E: gforsyth@wlu.ca
T: 519.884.0710 x3006

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