Beyond the classroom: KPU criminology students build positive connections with vulnerable youth in the community.
Big Brothers of Greater Vancouver honoured Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU) with the Murray Goldman Award for outstanding support of their agency.
For the past five years, students enrolled in the KPU criminology department’s community service learning course, have mentored school-age boys through Big Brothers’ Game On! Eat Smart, Play Smart program. The KPU practicum and service learning course is led by criminology instructors Dr. Lisa Kitt, Kristina Wijnsma and Dr. Evelyn Zellerer in partnership with Bobby Juco Big Brother’s Game On! supervisor.
“The placement at Big Brothers’ Game On! Program truly demonstrates the transformative impact of experiential learning,” said Wijnsma. “My service learning students leave with a deep understanding and appreciation for the power of relationship and connection. In their capacity as mentors, they’ve been able to develop active listening skills and have learned to be empathetic and compassionate in their front-line work with the boys – skills that are critical for effective and ethical work in their role as future criminal justice practitioners.”
Game On! is a group mentoring program, which provides boys with information and support to make informed choices about a range of healthy lifestyle practices. Through non-traditional physical activities, complemented with healthy eating support, KPU students alongside Big Brother staff engage school-age boys in life skills, communication and emotional health discussions that help develop the pursuit of life-long healthy lifestyles.
Juco nominated KPU for the award noting that the institution consistently sent amazing volunteers to Big Brothers for the past five years. One of the most recent student mentors so impressed Juco, he hired him after the practicum to be a mentoring coordinator for the Game On! program.
“The students from KPU bring with them a great level of enthusiasm and energy, which is needed when working with school-aged boys,” said Juco. “They are able to build and create positive connections with vulnerable youth in the community. Without them and our partnership with KPU, we could not be able to serve as many boys as we do. We are very thankful and appreciative of our partnership and hope to see it grow more in the future.
“The KPU criminology department’s ability to create positive connections with community agencies to give their students meaningful learning experiences, but at the same time provide agencies with energetic and go-getter students who are willing to work on the front line with our youth at a moment’s notice has never been compromised. Their professionalism and reputation with the agency is outstanding.”
Zellerer accepted the award on behalf of the team. She added, “our partnership with Big Brothers of Greater Vancouver is incredibly valuable and beautifully symbiotic. Our students gain so much experience and skills from volunteering with Big Brothers.”
To learn more about KPU’s criminology program, visit kpu.ca/arts/criminology.