Shoestring Initiative spearheaded by a UVic sociology doctoral student is looking to remove barriers and provide support for students living in or from a background of poverty. (File photo)

UVic advocacy group builds resources for students living in poverty

Shoestring Initiative is working to advance socioeconomic diversity in universities

An initiative spearheaded by a UVic sociology doctoral student looks to remove barriers and provide support for students living in or from a background of poverty.

“As a student from generational poverty, I know how hard it can be to try to get to university, and ‘succeed’ on a very unfamiliar landscape, with a culture I don’t understand,” says Elaine Laberge, who launched the Shoestring Initiative with three associate professor co-founders.

The project’s aim is to advance socioeconomic diversity in Canadian universities by providing community, support and advocacy among UVic community members who identify as being from (or living in) poverty, foster care, working class backgrounds or as first-generation university students.

The initiative grew from Laberge’s nine-month narrative inquiry into how growing up in persistent childhood poverty shapes undergraduate students’ experiences.

RELATED: B.C. introduces poverty reduction plan to cut child poverty by 50 per cent

With their inaugural gathering on Nov. 1 that saw more than 35 students, professors, and advisors in attendance, the group is moving forward to increase access to resources, build partnerships with community and university service providers and host social events for the community.

The website has a lengthy list of resources aimed at connecting students with food, product and health care assistance, as well as general educational resources to help with studies.

There is also a page that has an ongoing collection of academic research papers, books, reports and multimedia pieces addressing issues related to students and poverty.

The initiative hosts a weekly get together called Shoestring Tuesdays for students to come together for support and learning. The idea is to have professors, advisors, counsellors and librarians there to provide educational guidance and “share their own lived experiences of composing lives on the higher education landscape.”

RELATED: High housing costs in Greater Victoria are forcing university students into suburbs

Part of the Shoestring Initiative is to try to create long-lasting changes at the structural and institutional level to support students, faculty, and advisors now and in the future.

Working with Laberge on the project are co-founders Catherine Léger (Associate Professor, French), Colette Smart (Associate Professor, Psychology), and Su Urbanczyk (Associate Professor, Linguistics).


 

keri.coles@blackpress.ca

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