THUNDER BAY – Lakehead University played host on Friday to more than 80 Thunder Bay Catholic District School Board students from grade 4 to grade 8 who participated in its achievement program which offers children who might otherwise not have been able to attend University the opportunity to experience it.
“The Achievement Program is Lakehead University’s commitment to supporting access to post secondary education by providing opportunities to students who experience socioeconomic barriers,” said Dr. Moira McPherson, Lakehead’s President, and Vice-Chancellor.
“This program is about hope and opportunity. It’s about encouraging students to see themselves as Lakehead University graduates at an early age.”
School boards choose eligible schools based on socioeconomic status and families self-enrol.
Children in grades 4 through 12 participate in programming yearly in their school, community, and at Lakehead University, and in return earn financial support for Lakehead University once they graduate high school.
“When this program began, our charter class students were in the fourth grade at St. Ann’s,” said Omer Belisle, Superintendent of Education at the Thunder Bay Catholic District School Board.
“Today they are in their final year of senior elementary school and will be entering high school next year. The Achievement Program has and will continue to benefit our students for their upcoming post-secondary education.”
Lakeisha Meekis participated in the program when she attended elementary school and she now has just completed her first year of university at Lakehead. Having faced her own struggles, she encouraged the students in attendance to keep going, saying that there will be hard times in life but they can still do it.
"I guess it just helped to know that I'd been here before and I had more confidence when I attended the program. So me coming here as a student, it made things easy for me,” said Meekis.
The kids are touring the campus and participating in cultural programming and activities with various departments, including nursing, engineering, and athletics. In all, there are about 240 students in the program.
Amanda Stefanile, Achievement Program Coordinator, said she was happy to have the students back on campus for the day.
“I'm so excited to be able to host our students on campus this year as the last two years have been cancelled due to COVID,” Stefanile said.
“The smiles on the kids’ faces as they participate in recreational, educational and cultural programming is the highlight for me. I really want to thank the Lakehead faculty and staff for their assistance in providing hands-on programming for our students.”
Campus day is just one part of the program, which also involves mentorship, programming at their schools, a free summer camp, and a year of free tuition for students who participate in the program all the way through.