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Reaching out to youth at-risk

Part three in a series on innovative approaches to teaching and learning.

When the final project in FOCI 291 –Teaching At-Risk Adolescents and Young Adults – was assigned, Sarah Oldenburger (Ed’16) saw an opportunity to use the project to make a difference for a cause near and dear to her – youth housing. Partnering with staff at RISE@one4nine, she worked with the youth residents to develop program and service offerings designed to help them build towards the next phases of their lives.

“I’m really interested in housing for youth,” Oldenburger says. “There’s only one youth shelter in Kingston and there’s not a lot of other places where youth can go if they’re in need. Youth housing is something I'm personally interested in so I wanted to spend some time in community-based housing so I could contribute to the well-being of youth in those spaces.”

Over the course of several months, she conducted a series of informal interviews with youth at RISE@one4nine. These interviews were used to gather input on programming and support systems that clients felt would be of most use in helping them transition to independent living. Oldenburger said that building rapport with the youth was essential in creating an environment of trust where they felt comfortable opening up about their needs.

While the class has concluded, Oldenburger says she intends to remain involved with RISE, in order to see the programs proposed through her project brought to completion.

“I feel a sense of duty to carry out these projects,” she explains. “I’ll be staying in Kingston and giving as much to this project and this organization as I can, given whatever time and resources I have available. It’s a really cool organization and there’s a great need.”

Each year, students in the Faculty of Education’s FOCI 291 course are tasked with designing community development projects aimed at providing support to students at-risk due to challenges outside of the classroom – such as physical or mental illness or family circumstances. The course comprises half of the Bachelor of Education At-Risk Adolescents and Young Adults concentration – one of a number of concentrations in the Bachelor of Education program, which allows interested candidates the opportunity to specialize in a particular aspect of teaching.