WHAT IS NOISE?
The “New Opportunities for Innovative Student Engagement” (NOISE) project is a research-informed model for enhancing the academic success of York University Social Work students and youth from the Jane/Finch community through engaged learning opportunities that energize and support their civic engagement and psycho-social well-being.
Jane/Finch youth fellows and Social Work student fellows work together in community action pods on social action projects relevant to contemporary socio-political-economic conditions in the Jane/Finch community. Each pod is facilitated by an MSW Graduate Assistant and include a Social Work alumni fellow and a faculty adviser.
As an action project, NOISE is informed by the findings of the Assets Coming Together for Youth Research Project. ACT for Youth (2009 – 2014) brings together a multisectoral alliance of community stakeholders and an interdisciplinary network of researchers in a program of applied research, capacity building, knowledge transfer, and evaluation that is focused on youth in urban communities, using as a case study the Jane/Finch community. ACT for Youth seeks to develop a comprehensive youth strategy that articulates how urban communities, like the Jane/Finch community, can energize community assets that support positive youth development.
WHY MAKE NOISE?
Why Make NOISE for Jane/Finch Youth?
Jane/Finch youth have a lower rate of post-secondary education compared to youth in the City of Toronto. Research shows that young people who participate in engaged learning opportunities such as NOISE – connecting what they are learning in the classroom to community action – will experience better academic results, increased enjoyment of learning, and will be more likely to pursue post-secondary opportunities.
Why Make NOISE for York University Students?
A growing number of university students are increasingly disengaged from the university experience, and experience high levels of stress. Research shows that experiential education opportunities such as NOISE have a positive impact on students’ academic performance, self-efficacy, leadership, choice of service career, participation in service in the future, values of activism, and racial understanding.
WHAT IS A POD AND WHO IS IN A POD?
Every NOISE fellow belongs to a community action pod made up of 8 to 10 fellows that include high school youth, social work students, and a social work alum. Pods meet once per week throughout the academic school year in order to plan, act, reflect, evaluate, and celebrate their social action project.
Each pod is assigned a Graduate Assistant who is an MSW student in the School of Social Work at York University. The Graduate Assistant supports the pod with logistics, reflection, and acts as a general resource. Pods are also assigned a faculty advisor from the School of Social Work who provides research support and academic supervision to NOISE fellows who are taking the associated directed reading courses on Critical Youth Work.
How Do Pods Form?
The NOISE project staff assign fellows to pods based on a number of factors that include: availability, interests, and diversity.
Where Do Pods Meet?
The majority of pod meetings take place in the School of Social Work at York University. The members of each pod can also decide on a location that is convenient for all members (i.e. Emery Collegiate Institute, a public library, somewhere else on campus). Pods are encouraged to meet in a variety of places – not just at York University – so that all members have an opportunity to have the comfort of meeting in “their” space.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF A NOISE FELLOWSHIP?
Youth Fellows build networks with other youth, and with York University students, faculty and alumni; increase their self-esteem and belief in their ability to make change; imagine new possibilities; explore university or college campuses and requirements.
Social Work Student Fellows work collaboratively with other York University students, faculty and alumni, and with youth to complete a social action project that addresses community issues; build bridges between theory and practice, grounding academic concepts in real-world contexts; earn volunteer hours or course credits.
Social Work Alumni Fellows stay connected to the School of Social Work; build connections with community members, current students, professional colleagues, and faculty members; participate in social action projects for social change; enhance their understanding of youth and urban issues. Alumni bring their knowledge of York’s critical approach to social work, informed by a commitment to human rights, social justice, and anti-oppression, to NOISE, building a stronger School of Social Work and Jane/Finch community.
WHAT IS THE ACADEMIC COMPONENT OF NOISE?
NOISE youth fellows earn the 40 hours of community service required for their Ontario Secondary School certificate through their participation in the social action projects.
NOISE BSW fellows complete a directed reading course – AP/SOWK 4210 – Critical Youth Work: A Praxis Experience In Theory, Practice, And Policy.
NOISE MSW fellows and Graduate Assistants complete a directed reading course – GS/SOWK 5970 – Critical Youth Work: A Praxis Experience In Theory, Practice, Policy, And Research.
WHAT IS THE EXPERIENTIAL COMPONENT OF NOISE?
The NOISE fellows learn about community-based research and use these skills to engage in a reflective, hands-on social action project in the Jane/Finch community to address one of six issue areas outlined in Toronto’s Vital Signs Report – Learning; Arts and Culture; Environment; Safety; Gap Between Rich and Poor; and Leadership, Civic Engagement, and Belonging.
The social action projects ground academic concepts in real-world contexts and allow the youth and students to learn from each other and from alumni and faculty. These social action opportunities differ from traditional service learning projects in which students are conceptualized as the ‘volunteers’ and youth as ‘recipients’ thereby negating the strengths that each group possesses..
NOISE prioritizes multidirectional learning and accountability among all participants in the pod and recognizes that youth, students, alumni, and faculty all contribute important skills and experiences and mutually benefit from their multidirectional relationships.
DO I NEED TO KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT THE JANE/FINCH COMMUNITY BEFORE I GET INVOLVED?
No, you do not. You do, however, need to approach the fellowship with a willingness to learn, a readiness to let go of any negative stereotypes you may heard about the Jane/Finch community, and a respect of the knowledge community members have of the place where they live. If you do bring knowledge about the Jane/Finch community because you are a community member yourself or you have worked there, that is great. Use that knowledge however you can in your work with your pod, but always be open to learning more. All the youth fellows attend school in the Jane/Finch community and some of the other fellows may be community members as well.
DO I NEED TO KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT COMMUNITY-BASED RESEARCH BEFORE I GET INVOLVED?
No, you do not. You do need to be interested and willing to learn, as well as willing to bring your skills and talents to our work together.
WHEN DOES THE NOISE FELLOWSHIP START AND END?
The NOISE project runs from August to April and has four main phases:
Recruitment – Late Spring/Early Summer
In the Late Spring and Early Summer, we recruit youth fellows from affiliated high schools and Social Work students at the School of Social Work at York University.
Summer Learning Retreat – Late Summer
In August, in partnership with the Assets Coming Together for Youth Research Project, NOISE hosts a Summer Learning Retreat (SLR) at York University for NOISE fellows.
The SLR prepares NOISE fellows for their Fall and Winter pod work by providing engaged learning opportunities that focus on research methods, collaborative practices, leadership, and team-building. At the end of the SLR, pods are formed.
Pod Planning – Fall Semester
From September to December, pods meet once every week to plan and research their social action project. In December, NOISE organizes a full-day pod planning retreat that culminates with social action project plan presentations to the NOISE community.
Social Action Projects & Celebration – Spring Semester
Pods work on their social action project from January to April while completing the academic component of NOISE.
HOW MUCH TIME DO FELLOWS COMMIT TO NOISE?
Although there is some variation from pod to pod, it is expected that fellows will spend a minimum of 10 hours per month on their NOISE fellowship. Generally, fellows spend two hours each week meeting with their pod or working independently on their social action project. Fellows also spend about two hours each month participating in additional NOISE activities, such as participating in events that bring the entire NOISE community together.
WHAT IS THE SPRING FESTIVAL OF LEARNING?
The Spring Festival of Learning is NOISE’s end- of-year celebration in late April that showcases the lessons learned from the social action projects undertaken by the pods. All fellows and their families and friends are invited!
Throughout the year, NOISE holds special events that are open to everyone in the community, where we invite people who inspire us to share their stories and reflections.
HOW CAN I GET INVOLVED?
Click here to see the different ways to get involved