Critical support at a critical time: celebrating RBC Foundation’s generosity

March 3, 2021

By Suzanne Robicheau

The results are in and the impact is clear. Thanks to RBC Foundation’s generous funding for a mobile, skill development platform called Q-Life, students at Acadia University are remaining engaged and staying resilient – even during a global pandemic.

“Q-Life has provided support and offered an opportunity for growth during this unprecedented and stressful time,” says Jonathon Fowles, a Kinesiology professor and Director of The Centre of Lifestyle Studies (COLS) at Acadia. “The responses from students participating in a mid-term assessment of the program indicate a positive impact, both on improving resilience and maintaining good mental health.”

Fowles first heard about Q-Life in 2017 during a discussion with long-time acquaintance Darren Steeves, founder and CEO of Habbit Forming Technologies. Steeves was preparing to introduce Q-Life to a cohort of students at Dalhousie University. Fowles was working on mindfulness, resilience training and mental health supports for Acadia students. Recognizing the similarity in what they hoped to achieve, the two decided to join forces to refine the Q-Life program and introduce it to Acadia.

The first challenge was finding the funding for promotion, administration, and management, an obstacle surmounted with a gift of $100,000 from RBC.

“It can be difficult to get initial funding for a new program because no one wants to be the first at a party,” says Fowles, “so RBC Foundation deserves a great deal of credit for stepping up. Not only did that funding allow our team to upgrade the initial Dalhousie experience to deliver a revamped Q-Life to Acadia University students in February 2020, but it also leveraged additional monies from government sources, most of which have a partner funding requirement.”

Based on the success of Q-Life, and participant feedback crediting the program with improvements in goal setting, health, self-confidence, and stress reduction, RBC Foundation made a second gift of $100,000 to take the Q-Life platform to the next level for the current school year. As a result, program participants now benefit from an individualized, resilience building experience. Also important –additional partner grants are helping to build an intelligent e-platform to support Q-Life’s continued expansion.

With COVID-19 disrupting the academic experience at Acadia, Q-Life couldn’t have arrived at a better time for a fourth-year Business major from Halifax. “I am much more in control now,” says the 22-year-old. “My days have more structure because of the emphasis placed on healthy habits and my goal-setting skills have improved tremendously. I have the Q-Life to thank for that.”

Acadia’s Health and Wellness Promoter, Courtney Sheedy, sees Q-Life as a fantastic option for students looking to engage in resilience training and mental health support online. “Our universities and, most importantly, our students, are very lucky to have people like Darren Steeves and Jonathon Fowles working on these types of programs,” she says. “Transitioning into life at university is hard, and students’ mental health can decline because of it. Not only does Q-Life help to prevent mental illness, it also builds habits that promote mental wellness.”

Nancy Handrigan (’92), Acadia’s Vice-President, Advancement (Interim), is quick to credit RBC Foundation with providing critical funds for the program. “RBC is committed to eliminating the barriers faced by young people and extending supports in all areas of the educational experience, including mental health and general wellness,” she says. “We are extremely grateful for RBC Foundation’s generous support, including past funding for a variety of other initiatives at Acadia, including a Business Case Studies digital platform, the Robotics Competition, and the Alumni Networking platform (Acadia Café).”

For Jonathon Fowles, it all comes back to that willingness to champion a new concept, thereby laying the foundation for other support. “We owe RBC Foundation a huge vote of gratitude,” he says. “They jumped in with both feet and gave us the lift we needed to develop and implement this wonderful program. There will be many benefits for many students, both now and in the future.”


Top Photo:

Brent Aitken, Regional Vice-President, RBC

Middle Photo:

Jonathon Fowles and Julia Koppernaes (’19)

Bottom Photo:

Darren Steeves, Vendura Wellness