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Reducing high school dropout rates in Canada

Every year, approximately 40,000 high school students drop out of school in Canada. Launched in 2012 as a partnership between Boys and Girls Clubs of Canada (BGCC) and Rogers Youth Fund, Rogers Raising the Grade is a national afterschool education program which aims to increase academic skills and high school graduation rates for youth through Boys and Girls Clubs across the country.

Rogers Raising the Grade uses the appeal of technology and dedicated space provided in Tech Centres designed exclusively for participating clubs, quality online resources, alongside 1:1 mentoring to re-engage youth in learning and the commitment to finish high school. 

Alyssa Louw, a Psychology PhD student at the University of Ottawa, undertook a Mitacs Accelerate internship to assist the Social Research and Demonstration Corporation (SRDC) – a non-profit social research organization with a longstanding history and interest in finding out what works in education – during the first year of the Rogers Raising the Grade evaluation.

According to Ms. Heather Smith Fowler, Principal Research Associate at SRDC, evaluating Rogers Raising the Grade is a large, challenging project requiring a diverse set of skills and expertise in implementation and outcomes evaluation. Alyssa’s research internship was conducted under the supervision of Tim Aubry, a Professor in the School of Psychology at the University of Ottawa. It focused on elements specific to both the evaluation and program development; in addition to conducting many of the quantitative analyses for the first year of the program’s implementation evaluation, her role also included developing and piloting a technology-based youth engagement activity at a local partner Club.

In the end, Alyssa developed Photo Voice, a six week activity in which youth come up with themes of interest and document these through photos, videos, and discussions with their peers. This initiative is now included in a guide book utilized by 35 Boys and Girls Clubs  across Canada.

“Photo Voice is an excellent initiative that met the goals of Rogers Raising the Grade in terms of developing and piloting an activity for the youth that puts together both academic and technology,” says Heather Smith Fowler.

For Alyssa, her Mitacs Accelerate internship was a great way to get real-world experience in her field while completing her studies. Mitacs Accelerate builds the bridge between academic and industry by giving graduate students a chance to work with more experienced researchers, and provides exposure to research in real world settings,” she said.

Alyssa’s internship with SRDC and BGCC has been renewed. She is currently working on the second phase of the Rogers Raising the Grade program evaluation, including engaging the youth directly in evaluating the program through online discussion forums and focus groups.

Mitacs gratefully acknowledges the Government of Canada, the Networks of Centres of Excellence's Industrial Research and Development Internship program and the Government of Ontario for their support of Mitacs Accelerate in the province.