McMaster University

McMaster University

CORE program for struggling youth to officially launch January 16

By Amanda Boundris

Matthew Atkinson, left, and Dalian Bledea
Matthew Atkinson, left, and Dalian Bledea work on their personal interest projects in media arts as part of the CORE program, which officially launches January 16.

Community Organizations Reaching Everyone (CORE), an innovative Hamilton program for struggling youth that helps them link with existing learning opportunities, discover their passions and develop job skills, will officially launch next week.

The CORE program’s launch celebration will be held on Wednesday, Jan. 16 from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. at McMaster Innovation Park (MIP). Among others, representatives from local businesses, government, organizations for youth, health care organizations, two Hamilton school boards, and McMaster University, will be in attendance at this invitation-only event.

CORE involves university, college and community agency groups and individuals. The program engages youth – high-school dropouts, homeless youth, and young adults on social assistance — in meaningful activities while learning through the arts. Current high school co-op students and returning students can gain high school credits through existing school boards with their CORE art studies. CORE has been a pilot project since September, with more than 30 youth currently enrolled.

The purpose of the launch event is to "showcase what CORE provides for our children and youth through their actual student projects and our research findings," said Gina Browne, a McMaster nursing professor. "We will compare the strengths and abilities of CORE participants with those of Hamilton street youth who are not enrolled in CORE."

CORE is one of Browne’s priority intervention projects in the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care funded Systems of Prevention and Care program, and is guided by current policies about children, education and mental health. In the CORE Experiential Learning Program at MIP, participants design their own projects in media arts, visual arts, music, literary arts, dance and cultural heritage, and are mentored by McMaster interns and a volunteer support team.

"From a nurse’s perspective, CORE is an alternative mental health promotion strategy through the arts to help youth identify their passions and strengths, thereby enhancing their self-esteem, confidence and ability to contribute. This is an innovative and integrated approach to learning," said Browne, who is also director of McMaster’s Health and Social Service Utilization Research Unit.

Core is a customized learning program developed by Patricia Gough, a former Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic District School Board principal and teacher. It is an alternative way of learning for those who have trouble with traditional approaches in school.

For example, someone with an interest in culinary arts learns about nutrition and cultures of the world, while improving literacy skills through reading menus; mathematical skills through dealing with fractions and measurements in recipes; computer skills in searching for recipes; and interpersonal and problem-solving skills in working with others. The student then shares their new skills with others by preparing food for neighbourhood elementary schools, daycare centres, senior homes or youth groups, and through exercises like teaching others how to cook a meal for $4.

Browne added that the program is important because re-engaging students leads to reduced school dropout rates, which may help reduce poverty in Hamilton.

CORE recently received support from the McMaster President’s Fund, as it aligns with the priorities outlined in President Patrick Deane’s Forward with Integrity letter.
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