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Mohawk College, Hamilton Public Library partner to develop new model of educational programming for student-caregivers

Ceremonial Opening of The Joyce Centre for Partnership & Innovation at Mohawk College

Mohawk College and the Hamilton Public Library (HPL) are partnering on a new research project to help college students juggle their academic and caregiving responsibilities to ensure academic success.

With funding support from the federal government’s College and Community Social Innovation Fund (CCSIF), the College Student Success Innovation Centre (CSSIC) at Mohawk College and HPL will develop, implement, and evaluate educational support programming for post-secondary student-caregivers and their dependents.

Up to 18 per cent of Mohawk College’s full-time students serve as caregivers to early-year and school-aged children. These students often struggle to balance their academic responsibilities with care provision for their dependents.

The goal of the research study is to create and test a new model that supports these student-caregivers and their dependents at the same time and in the same space. CSSIC is calling it “tandem educational programming.”

“This project represents an exciting opportunity to bring together existing resources to create something new and needed. HPL already provides engaging community-based programming for patrons of all ages. Mohawk College has a robust peer-tutoring program through its Learning Support Centre, and enrolls hundreds of trainees in Early Childhood Education programs,” says Dr. Pamela Ingleton, Director of CSSIC and the project’s research lead. “This dynamic collaboration is a potential blueprint for developing programs that address community needs. As an added benefit, it helps foster intergenerational experiences and the role-modeling and normalization of help-seeking behaviour, in this case accessing educational support or tutoring.”

The core research question explores the value of providing dedicated learning time for student-caregivers without separating them from their caregiving roles. The model encourages connections among peers who are also student-caregivers, creating a support network crucial for success. Joining the project as a collaborator will be Dr. Tricia van Rhijn, Professor and Department Chair in the University of Guelph’s Department of Family Relations & Applied Nutrition.

For the team at the HPL, the collaboration marks an opportunity for the library to extend its reach.

“The proposed tandem programming will provide Hamilton Public Library new ways to support student-caregivers while offering children positive experiences that focus on early literacy, school readiness and building social-emotional skills,” says Cindy Poggiaroni, HPL’s Director of Collections and Program Development. “This great partnership with Mohawk College aligns with HPL’s commitment to supporting literacy and fostering a lifelong love of reading in our community.”

Using a multi-generational or "2Gen" approach, this initiative will be the first of its kind to simultaneously address the educational needs of caregivers and their dependents within the same space. By leveraging existing expertise at HPL and across academic and student services areas at Mohawk College, this initiative aims to provide much-needed resources to an underserved and underrecognized population. The immediate focus over the next three years of the project is to support local student-caregivers, with a larger vision to create a scalable model that can be replicated in communities across Canada, making education and support more accessible.

CSSIC previously received funding from the CCSIF in 2020 to support the development and piloting of the Future Ready Skills Translator, a process of facilitating more precise skills translation between postsecondary and employment contexts, which culminated in the creation of a set of demand-led, scenario-based AI simulations. 

Mohawk College’s City School has previously been awarded funding from CCSIF in 2018 to study the effectiveness of mobile classroom and in 2020 for employer demand-led research.

Funding Announcement: Canadian colleges address local challenges through 59 research collaboration projects

List of awardees: College and Community Social Innovation Fund grants