Inspiring youth to reach for the stars

Inspiring youth to reach for the stars
DiscoverE youth learn valuable skills through basic exercieses designed to peak interest in science and technology.Photo Courtesy of Actua.

Youth gathered in Fort Chipewyan’s Archie Simpson Arena last week to learn hands-on skills in science and technology from university students through an Aboriginal outreach program put on by the Actua charity group.

DiscoverE is a student-based initiative, put on by engineering faculty from the University of Alberta, focused on providing knowledge and experiences to youth that wouldn’t normally be exposed to the subject matter so they may be inspired to strive for higher knowledge.

“We focus on engaging youth that are under-represented in the fields of science and technology,” said Leslie Cuthbertson, director of partnerships and communications for Actua. “We are inspired to help them and show them that they have career options so they will stay in school.”

For 10 years, Actua and DiscoverE have provided these types of community outreach programs to under-represented youth across the country through a network of university-based, faculty-run camps and workshops, through funding from Shell Canada.

“We work very hard to move beyond just engaging their minds,” said Cuthbertson. “We tie them to the careers that they would be working in based on the project being worked on.

“When they build a bridge we refer to them as mechanical engineers; if they look at a banana under a microscope we tell them they are a micro biologist.”

This type of invested support in their students’ interests has made Actua and programs like DiscoverE extremely successful.

For example, after a three-year independent study of Actua’s methods it was determined that 81 per cent of students felt an increase in knowledge, 84 per cent had increased interest in the subject matter they worked with and 74 per cent of students expressed interest in pursuing the career based on subject matter they worked with.

Cuthbertson said that of the 20,000 Aboriginal youth Actua has worked with over the past 10 years, 20 per cent have received post secondary training in the subject matter that sparked their interest during one of their camps or workshops, a fact she is very proud of.

Actua continues working with youth of all ages all over the country through its many workshops and camps, seeking to inspire youth to see beyond the confines of their present situations and seek bigger and better things for themselves.

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