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UNB announces $1.25 million commitment to digital education for economically disadvantaged communities

Author: UNB Newsroom

Posted on Oct 21, 2022

Category: UNB Saint John , UNB Fredericton

The Joyce Family Foundation and the University of New Brunswick (UNB) are pleased to announce a gift of $1.25 million in support of The Promise Partnership peer-to-peer mentoring and tutoring program.

The gift will be used to create The Promise Partnership Digital Literacy Initiative. This initiative will see UNB’s successful Promise Partnership peer-to-peer mentoring and tutoring program for children in economically disadvantaged communities expanded to include a new digital literacy curriculum. The new curriculum will be scaled up and rolled out to other partner communities across New Brunswick within six years.

The gift was secured through the ambassadorship of UNB alumnus and former New Brunswick premier The Honourable Frank McKenna, PC, OC, ONB, KC, F.ICD, and The McKenna Institute.

“The Promise Partnership has helped more than 2,000 children from low-income families in Saint John change their odds of success,” said Dr. Paul J. Mazerolle, UNB’s president and vice-chancellor. “At the same time, the program has taught more than 1,500 university students that through mentoring and assisting others we can lift the entire community.”

“We are honoured by this gift from The Joyce Family Foundation, which will enable UNB to expand The Promise Partnership into digital literacy education and make its services available to more children here in Saint John and other New Brunswick communities,” Dr. Mazerolle said.

Steven Joyce, the trustee of The Joyce Family Foundation, said the Foundation was pleased to be able to help. “The Joyce Family Foundation commends The Promise Partnership for its peer-to-peer mentorship programming,” Mr. Joyce said. “UNB and The McKenna Institute have taken a leadership role by enhancing the program to give confidence and skills for children and youth that face disadvantage. This will go a long way to level the playing field in today’s digital-dependent society.”

The Promise Partnership began in 2009 as a Backyard Book Club for elementary school students in the nearby priority neighbourhood of Crescent Valley. The club was created and led by UNB Saint John undergraduates. Over the past decade, The Promise Partnership has evolved into a professionally designed, comprehensive K-12 peer-to-peer educational program delivered by paid undergraduate tutors and volunteer mentors.

The Joyce Family Foundation’s gift will enable UNB to create a new digital literacy curriculum for economically disadvantaged children, integrate it into The Promise Partnership, pilot it in Saint John and expand delivery to other partner communities within a six-year time frame.

The inaugural McKenna Fellow in Digital Education, Matt McGuire, will help design the new curriculum.

Frank McKenna, founder and ambassador of The McKenna Institute, said “Digital literacy is essential to the health and prosperity of our society. We know 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.”

Jen Brown, a former Promise Partnership mentor, tutor and staffer who grew up in the priority neighbourhood of Crescent Valley, praised the initiative. “The Promise Partnership provides students with an opportunity to shape their future and break the cycle of poverty. This gift isn’t just about helping students from low-income neighbourhoods beat the odds of succeeding; it’s about helping communities change the odds.”

Dr. Petra Hauf, UNB’s Vice President Saint John, said “This generous gift will help our campus take the lessons we have learned through The Promise Partnership and apply them for the benefit of all New Brunswickers.”

“The impact that this gift will have on vulnerable children and youth in our community, and communities across the province, will be phenomenal,” Dr. Hauf said.

Media contact: Heather Campbell