Giving young parents a chance to LEAP ahead

Life can be full of challenges for young parents. To help them manage, Ontario Works’ Learning, Earning, and Parenting (LEAP) program provides support to people between the ages of 16 and 25 who already have children by helping them finish high school, achieve sustainable employment and become independent and self-reliant.

However, some 60 percent of the young adults in the LEAP program who graduate from high school each year don’t plan to continue their education at a post-secondary institution, a choice that can affect their employment options for the rest of their lives. Durham College worked together with the continuing education division of Durham District School Board and The Regional Municipality of Durham Social Services Department on an intervention developed and piloted to gain insight into the LEAP participants’ perception of post-secondary education.

Eighteen young parents registered in the study and were surveyed before and after the intervention program on their perceptions of post-secondary education. Two Durham College students were hired as research assistants.

The intervention program took the participants on campus tours and offered workshops and in-class activities as well as a range of multi-disciplinary supports and services. Each participant had the opportunity to work with a supportive coach to develop a transition plan for entering post-secondary education.

“I have had the privilege to work in collaboration with colleagues from Durham College’s Office of Research Services, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship and School of Health and Community Services several times,” said Dr. Darren Levine, manager of the Innovation and Research Unit in the Regional Municipality of Durham’s Social Services Department. “Each collaboration has focused on enhancing students’ learning, while strengthening community services and driving local social innovation.”

The research showed that after the intervention program, the young parents had fewer concerns about post-secondary programs, increased certainty about academic and employment outcomes, and greater confidence in their ability to enter and succeed in a post-secondary program. More of the young parents in the program said they might pursue post-secondary education after they had been through the program.

As a result of the research, a permanent program was introduced. Young parents who are clients of the Durham’s LEAP program now have access to a dual-credit program while they’re completing the Ontario Secondary School Diploma requirements to help ease the transition from high school to college.

Funded by: Ontario Human Capital Research and Innovation Fund

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