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Connecting students with Kingston

A group of students is launching a website to help their peers get involved in the local community.

Photograph of downtown Kingston
The KS ConnectHub will help students find ways to safely take part in and give back to the Kingston community during the pandemic.

Part of the student experience at Queen’s is taking part in the Kingston community. But due to COVID-19, the reduced number of students in Kingston may be wondering how they can safely and responsibly get involved in the city. That’s why a group of Queen’s students in the Dunin-Deshpande Queen’s Innovation Centre (DDQIC) Spread Innovation Challenge is creating the KS ConnectHub (Kingston-Student ConnectHub), a website to help the tricolour community find ways to safely take part in and give back to the Kingston community during the pandemic.

“We feel a strong sense of connection to the Kingston community, and we wanted to find a way to help the people and businesses in town during this time. And we also wanted to do something to help students safely stay involved with the community despite everything that’s going on,” says Taylore Dodd, a Queen’s undergraduate in Arts and Science and one of the founders of KS ConnectHub

KS ConnectHub serves as a hub for information about Kingston businesses and non-profit organizations. Profiling a wide range of organizations, the website is organized around three pillars: Support Local, Get Involved, and Donate. These three categories show users options for exploring local businesses, volunteering with community groups, and donating to non-profits, respectively. It is designed with Queen’s students in mind, but anyone will be able use the site.

KS ConnectHub is led by a team of four founders, all of them students in the Faculty of Arts and Science. In addition to Dodd, the founders are Jack Chen, Simmona Coelho, and Yuelin Ge.

Surveying students and working with local leaders

To make sure their website addressed a real need, the KS ConnectHub team surveyed the Queen’s student body to learn their attitudes about COVID-19 and the coming academic year. They found that many new and returning students were concerned that they might not have a sense of connection to the Kingston community due to physical distancing.

“When we saw that students felt like they needed ways to connect to Kingston and safely take part in the life of the area, we knew that KS ConnectHub would offer something of value to Queen’s students, no matter what year or program they’re in,” says Dodd. “We hope that KS ConnectHub can make students feel less isolated during the pandemic, even while practicing all physical distancing and safety measures.”

The KS ConnectHub team has also been consulting with local leaders, including officials in the municipal government, to make sure that they are directing potential volunteers and donations to organizations that would have the most significant impact on the community.

Launching the website

The KS ConnectHub website is scheduled to launch during orientation so that it is up and running for the start of the fall term, when a reduced number of students will be returning to campus and the Kingston area. A number of local businesses and organizations are already working with KS ConnectHub to be featured on the website. And the team is still welcoming suggestions for additional businesses and organizations to feature. They are also seeking student volunteers to help manage the website.

All suggestions and enquiries can be directed to ksconnecthub@gmail.com.

KS ConnectHub is just one of the student-led ventures taking part in the DDQIC Spread Innovation Challenge. Through the challenge, the DDQIC is providing funding and mentorship to teams of student entrepreneurs who are building solutions to tackle the challenges facing healthcare systems, livelihoods, economies, and communities during COVID-19.

To keep up with KS Connect Hub, follow them on Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn @ksconnecthub.