Home Month and Year February 2024 Edmonton Researcher Wins Prestigious Mitacs Award for Ensuring Indigenous Youth Voices are...

Edmonton Researcher Wins Prestigious Mitacs Award for Ensuring Indigenous Youth Voices are Heard in Alberta

Kirsty Choquette received a Mitacs Award for her work at a recent ceremony in Ottawa.

At a time when 74 per cent of youth in care in Alberta are Indigenous, a University of Alberta researcher is being recognized for her efforts to make sure their voices are heard when it comes to evaluating the programs and supports in place to help them transition out of the system as adults.

The game-changing work has earned Kirsty Choquette the Mitacs Award for Inclusive Innovation, awarded by Mitacs, a national innovation organization that fosters growth by solving business challenges with research solutions from academic institutions and is supported by the Government of Alberta.

Choquette – a University of Alberta PhD student in the School and Clinical Child Psychology program, and completing research in the School of Public Health under the supervision of Dr. Rebecca Gokiert – is being recognized for her innovative work to develop an inclusive evaluation framework that is now being used by the Alberta Mentoring Partnership (AMP) and its partner organizations to build a culturally safe environment from the ground up, ensuring that Indigenous youth transferring out of child welfare services feel represented and able to share their stories about their mentoring experiences.

“We really got to the heart of what it means to be inclusive,” says Choquette, who is now getting the opportunity to reconnect with her own Mi’kmaq heritage in new ways thanks to the project. “Rather than simply gathering data to show what these mentoring programs are doing in terms of how many youth are engaged and how many one-to-one matches are made, we’re shifting the focus to hear from the youth themselves so that we can better meet their needs,” she adds.

“This project would not have happened without Mitacs,” she says. “My Indigenous culture wasn’t a part of my life growing up, but through working with Indigenous people and groups, I’m now more in touch with that part of my identity. I believe knowledge and awareness is an important step towards building inclusivity, but once we have that knowledge, it’s important to actually take action if we’re serious about making lasting change.”

The Mitacs Award for Inclusive Innovation is presented to a Mitacs intern who has made a significant achievement in research and development innovation during their Mitacs-funded research. Mitacs programs are funded by the Government of Canada and provincial and territorial governments across the country.

Choquette is one of nine Mitacs award winners nationally, chosen from thousands of researchers who take part in Mitacs programs each year. The remaining eight recipients were recognized for outstanding innovation, commercialization or exceptional leadership in other areas of research.

In congratulating the winners, Mitacs CEO John Hepburn reflected on Mitacs’ 25-year history of providing Canadian innovators with opportunities for experiential skills development through strategic partnerships between industry, government and academia.

“Mitacs is honoured to play a pivotal role in empowering industry leaders across Canada to foster game-changing ideas, and we couldn’t be more pleased to celebrate their significant achievements with these awards,” says Hepburn.