Ottawa, O.N. – When Senator Ogilvie looked for taxpayer-funded research projects that have demonstrable benefit to the lives of children and youth, he picked seven projects operating within Canadian universities. Kwantlen Polytechnic University’s (KPU) federally funded “Acting Together” Community University Research Alliance (AT-CURA) project was one of them.
A small delegation travelled to Ottawa last week to present the highlights of AT-CURA's gang prevention research project in a kiosk event hosted by Senator Ogilvie on parliament hill. The team included: Dr. Gira Bhatt, project team director and principal investigator; Rob Rai, Safe Schools department manager for the Surrey school district; KPU undergraduate student research assistant Jordan Buna; as well as Dr. Jason Dyer, KPU associate vice-president of research. The event was coordinated in partnership with ResearchImpact, a network that connects researchers with people and organizations seeking sustainable solutions to social, environmental, economic and cultural challenges.
About 100 parliamentarians, parliamentary staff and bureaucrats visited the AT-CURA kiosk to learn about the community-engaging research project that targets prevention of youth involvement in violence and criminal gangs.
Instead of focusing on risk factors and deficits of vulnerable youth, AT-CURA researchers surveyed 421 high school students to examine their character strengths, social connections, beliefs about crimes and several other aspects of youth life. The team has now identified protective factors that likely keep youth away from violence and possible involvement in gangs.
“Instead of pointing fingers at parents, at teachers, at police and policy makers for the youth involvement in criminal gang activities, let’s work together to pull in our expertise, resources and wisdom to ensure that we keep our youth protected from the lures of gangster lifestyle,” says Dr. Bhatt.
The impact and benefits of the AT-CURA project are reflected in a series of strength-based activities for youth. Over 150 at-risk youth have participated in community gardening, and 21 have developed employable video and digital skills.
Additionally, the project brought together eight of Metro Vancouver’s police agencies and 14 Sikh temple leaders, along with youth members, to develop action plans for youth gang prevention last fall.
B.C.’s anti-gang police agency CFSEU-BC has based its gang-prevention media campaign in part on the research results of the project, and the City of Surrey created gang-prevention handbills for parents with evidence-based information provided by the AT-CURA project.
“We use evidence-based research such as the ones that AT-CURA has provided to develop our programs for youth in high schools," says Rai. "We need local solutions to local issues as our B.C. demographics and gang dynamics are quite unique.”
B.C. MPs Joyce Murray and Elizabeth May spent extended time at the AT-CURA kiosk and have invited the team to continue the conversation about the project.
The AT-CURA project is funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada through the Community University Research Alliance Award.
Kwantlen Polytechnic University has been serving the Metro Vancouver region for 30 years, and has opened doors to success for more than 250,000 people. Four campuses—Richmond, Surrey, Cloverdale and Langley—offer a comprehensive range of sought-after programs, including business, liberal arts, science, design, health, trades and technology, apprenticeships, horticulture, and academic and career advancement. Over 19,000 students annually have a choice from over 145 programs, including bachelor’s degrees, associate degrees, diplomas, certificates and citations. Learn more at www.kpu.ca.
Caption: AT-CURA in Ottawa at Hon. Senator Ogilvie’s Social Innovation and Research Impact Event. (From left) Jordan Buna, KPU undergraduate student research assistant, AT-CURA; MP Saanich-Gulf Islands Elizabeth May, leader of the Green Party of Canada; Senator Kelvin Ogilvie; Dr. Gira Bhatt, principal investigator and director, AT-CURA; Dr. Jason Dyer, KPU associate vice-president of research.
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