Congratulations to the Transition-Age Youth (TAY) Initiative, this year’s winner of the Agnes Penner Prize. The team was comprised of King’s students Cassandra Newall, Kristin Legault, Olivia Kerr and Marissa Dias.

The winners, students from Dr. Marcie Penner’s Psychology for the Common Good: Creating Research-Based Applications course, were announced as part of the Psychology for the Common Good Community Panel on April 8, 2021.

“To us, it is so much more than a class project. We all agreed we are going to take this issue further than the course. It just feels so good to be able to make a difference through our undergraduate work,” says Kerr, fourth year Psychology and English student.

The TAY Initiative team of students saw an issue in the mental health care system for those, aged 16-25, transitioning from the childhood and adolescent system to the adult system.  Being in the age group themselves, “we have all in our own right experienced a problem with the system in one way or another,” says Kerr.

They set out to develop a a roadmap to local mental health resources for transition-aged youth for the London-based organization, Youth Opportunities Unlimited. Additionally, the students created a document outlining best practices that mental healthcare providers for Transition Age Youth can use to design effective programs for this demographic.

The team received media attention for their efforts and were profiled on CTV News. King’s Communications has also produced a short video about the TAY Initiative.

Tyler Paget,’16 (BA Hons Political Science) Employment Team Leader of Youth Opportunities Unlimited was “super impressed right from the get-go,” describing King’s students as “very professional, very knowledgeable and the resource that we received was top-notch.”

Paget says the document will not only be given to youth but to team members as well. The document was lauded for the comprehensive information (wait times, fees, access to transportation) it will provide to those youth accessing mental health resources.

In announcing the winner of the Penner Prize, Hailley White ’20 (BA Hons Psychology and Philosophy), a member of the panel, said the panelists were “blown away not only by the presence of the road map but by the addition of the best practices guide. We think the best practices document will significantly impact not only the problem you are addressing but hopefully youth who are experiencing mental health issues right now.”

The Agnes Penner Prize is awarded to the project with the greatest potential to benefit society. This is the seventh year for the award. Many past projects have been implemented in the community and have won external awards, including the Canadian Mental Health Association Champion of Mental Health Award.

This year’s recipients join the distinguished past award winners which include the 2015 winners who founded King’s K.A.M.P. In the past, panelists have even nominated student teams for external awards.

As part of the Psychology for the Common Good: Creating Research-Based Applications course, the students choose an issue they personally care about, then spend the fall semester reading to understand the issue in its context. In the second semester, they work in teams and partner with community groups to create research-based applications to address those issues.

The other participants, One London, a team consisting of Gillian Minshall, Sydney Haagsma, Xena Elghazali and Hanan Loubani, created a social media campaign for the Regional HIV/AIDS Connection to reduce stigma towards individuals experiencing homelessness and addiction.

The four students had discovered the issues of homelessness and substance abuse was one they were all passionate about. They gathered research regarding the experiences of homelessness and addiction and developed four best practices to create an effective anti-stigma campaign:

  • Develop a sympathetic narrative
  • Dispel myths and misinformation with facts
  • Discuss barriers to care
  • Describe the power of harm reduction

The members of One London then developed a campaign, employing Instagram and Facebook to inform and engage the community to reduce stigma and increase supports. Moving forward, they will work to secure grants to put their communications plan into motion.

White congratulated both teams for their considerable work and efforts. The panelists were very impressed by the presentations and the work put in to address the issues. “Both teams have created exceptional products. King’s students never fail to impress in the work that you are doing,” said White.

Dr. David Malloy, King’s Principal, attended the virtual event, as did over 50 other members of King’s and the broader community, and he spoke about the importance of studies having an impact. Agnes Penner, for whom the award is named, was well known for her belief that knowledge and skills should be used to benefit the community.

“Studying psychology gives students the knowledge and skills to tackle complex problems that they care about, ones where humans are part of the problem or need to be part of the solution. The Psychology for the Common Good course shows students that they do not have to wait until they graduate to use their knowledge and skills to make a meaningful difference in the world,” says Dr. Penner, Associate Professor of Psychology.

The community panel “is an opportunity for students to share the excellent research-based applications they have created with members of the community, gain valuable feedback, and to network with professionals in the field,” says Dr. Penner.

The panelists, comprised of community members chosen for their expertise in relation to the project topics, included: 

  • Dr. Noni Brennan ‘84 (BA English Language and Literature) - Senior Advisor for the Institute of Global Homelessness and King's Board Member
  • Roger Kabuya - Client Services Manager, London InterCommunity Health Centre
  • Lori Runciman - Director of Grants, London Community Foundation
  • Elora Watson ’20 (BSW) - Coordinator, mindyourmind
  • Hailley White’’20 (BA Hons Psychology and Philosophy) - Program Manager, Mental Health Commission of Canada

“We are particularly excited to have King's alumna and past Agnes Penner Prize winner Hailley White on the panel this year. Hailley has continued her prize-winning mental health research in her role as Program Manager for the Mental Health Commission of Canada,” says Dr. Penner.

To learn more about King’s Psychology program, please visit  www.kings.uwo.ca/academics/psychology/.