On Friday, Oct. 21, at the HWK Commons, the University of New Brunswick Saint John announced a commitment of $1.25 million from the Joyce Family Foundation in support of The Promise Partnership.
With this gift comes the intention to expand the program to reach other communities, create and implement a Digital Literacy Curriculum for The Promise Partnership, and reach different communities within New Brunswick.
Speakers at the event included UNB president and vice-chancellor Paul J. Mazerolle, UNB Vice President Petra Hauf, Frank McKenna-ambassador and founder of the McKenna institute, and Jen Brown, a former Promise Partnership staff member and mentor.
The Promise Partnership connects the students of UNB Saint John and the greater Saint John community; it started as a Backyard Book Club for elementary school students in the priority neighbourhood Crescent Valley in 2009 and is now a comprehensive, professionally operated K-12 program that helps to bridge the educational gap.
This program has transformed the Crescent Valley area, educating over 2000 students. Through the voluntary effort of over 1500 university undergraduate students. One hundred per cent of Promise Partnership participants have graduated high school, with many of them continuing on to pursue postsecondary education.
The shift toward online learning during the COVID-19 epidemic has made it prevalent how many students lack access to the technology needed for online learning. The donation from the Joyce Family Foundation will help ensure that students served by the Promise Partnership have access to the necessary technology and are educated in digital literacy.
The gift received by UNBSJ will be used to assist in the development and the scale out of the peer-to-peer curriculum and digital literacy designed to meet the specific needs of economically disadvantaged K-12 students.
The Joyce Family Foundation will also support parent and community outreach activities through their donation by providing age-appropriate coding materials and digital devices for classroom use by Promise Partnership mentees. The Joyce Family Foundation has encouraged UNB to roll out the Promise Partnership digital education initiative to other communities within six years.
UNB has estimated that The Joyce Family foundations’ gift will help partnership mentors reach 500 students in Saint John and an additional 500 students per year in each partnering community.
Mazerolle, UNB president and vice-chancellor, spoke next about how UNB Saint John will use this donation, saying, “We are deeply grateful for the foundations’ extraordinary commitment to helping all New Brunswickers access the benefits that a university education confirms . . . through this gift, we can leverage a generation of a change in how vulnerable students are educated to help break the cycle of generational poverty.”
Frank McKenna, the founder and ambassador of the McKenna Institute, said, “Digital literacy is essential . . . we know that changes to the provincial curriculum that foster digital literacy will only be effective if they reach all students, and this initiative will help achieve that equality of opportunity. I salute UNB and The Joyce Family Foundation for making this happen.”
Vice President Petra Hauf said, “This generous gift will help our campus benefit all New Brunswickers. This gift’s impact on vulnerable children and youth in our community and communities across the province will be phenomenal.”