(University of Victoria/Facebook)

As somebody with experience of generational poverty, UVic PhD student Elaine Laberge has always been passionate about exploring ways to fight systemic income inequality. Beginning this past fall semester, Laberge developed a new initiative to do just that, titled “The Shoestring Initiative.”

Hosted on a weekly basis, the Shoestring Initiative works to facilitate connections between first-generation university students and UVic professors and faculty, and also works to provide a tangible support system of mentorship and community to those coming from lower income backgrounds.

As post-secondary costs continue to rise across Canada, students in Victoria can be particularly impacted due to the city’s extremely high cost of living.

While those coming from a well-off family may be able to weather the costs in order to pursue their education, for students from lower-income households, getting a degree can be far more difficult.

For those who do make it into university or college, adjusting to the realities of post-secondary life can be challenging in ways that extend far beyond financial difficulties, with many first-generation students noting a sense of isolation  and alienation from their better-off peers.

In light of all this, Laberge notes that at the heart of her project is “structural big reasons for inequality and inequity,” and that ultimately, the Shoestring Initiative “is about empowering, mentoring, and supporting those who[se] lives are shaped by poverty.”

Alongside hosting regular events and opportunities for students to build connections and receive support from mentors, the Shoestring Initiative also does advocacy work relating to ending systemic poverty both on campus and in the community.

For those looking to learn more about the Shoestring Initiative, including ways to get involved, check out their website.