Hackathon Generates Innovative Solutions for International Students in Kingston


A hackathon hosted by Venture for Canada, Queen’s University Smith School of Business, and the City of Kingston has produced a series of innovative solutions aimed at improving the living and studying experiences of international students in Kingston.

The event focused on generating solutions across four key areas for international students: housing, mental well-being, employment, and immigration & community integration.

56 Venture for Canada Fellows, organized into teams of five, used Design Thinking principles to develop solutions that the City of Kingston might pilot following the challenge. This initiative served as the culmination of the Fellows’ learning experience in Kingston, having participated in workshops, panels, and other sessions since May 13th as part of the annual Fellowship Training Camp, hosted by Venture for Canada at the Smith School of Business.

“Every year, our Fellows venture not just for themselves, but for the communities they serve,” says Scott Stirrett, CEO and founder of Venture for Canada. “We are thrilled to continue our partnership with the City of Kingston and the Smith School of Business at Queen’s University, empowering our Fellows to bring innovative solutions to the vibrant Kingston community.”

Now in its third year, the challenge is a collaborative effort between Venture for Canada, the City of Kingston, and the Smith School of Business at Queen’s University. The initiative aims to strengthen the bond between Fellows and the Kingston community, offering Fellows the opportunity to apply their training in near real-life scenarios.

The Fellows collaborated with key stakeholders, including representatives from Queen’s University, KEYS Employment & Newcomers Services, and Kingston Community Health Centers, to gather insights and develop innovative solutions. Notable solutions included a mentorship and pen pal program to help international students improve their Canadian English, an AI chatbot to assist in the job hunt, and an online platform for job relevancy matching.

“What a privilege it was to connect with such a diverse group of talented young people from across Canada! These students tackled new challenges with creativity and conceived innovative, practical solutions that can actually be implemented quite easily by service organizations and the City. The event was an incredible opportunity for all of us, resulting in a collaboration that provided invaluable insights and ideas that can help improve the experience of international students in Kingston.” - Sonia Verjovsky, Project Supervisor, Workplace Inclusion Charter at KEYS Employment & Newcomer Services.

By addressing issues faced by international students, this challenge aimed to foster a supportive environment for students and enhance Kingston’s appeal as a welcoming community for newcomers.

Among the stakeholders were international students studying at Queen’s University, such as Noah Oyedeji, who is graduating this summer with his Master’s degree in Innovation and Entrepreneurship. Noah shared his personal challenges of moving from Nigeria to Kingston with his wife and three daughters. He spoke about the high cost of living and the inadequacies of health insurance coverage. His job search was fraught with rejection despite his experience with an American company and a Master of Business Administration (MBA), until one company finally took a chance on him. Noah’s story exemplifies the types of issues that the hackathon aimed to address.


Noah Oyedeji collaborates with Venture for Canada Fellows at Kingston City Hall.

“We saw the value that international students brought, the talent they offered, the ideas, and how they changed the makeup of the community. Kingston grew faster than ever, and with that brought a lot of change, with international students being a key part of that change. The work you did to help us address these challenges was absolutely critical. I believe that you could take smart people like you in a room, give them the tools to come up with great ideas, and that’s how you advance communities,” – Bryan Paterson, Mayor of Kingston.

Mayor Bryan Paterson addresses Venture for Canada Fellows during a panel at the Smith School of Business.

“This hackathon has been an extraordinary experience. Each year, the quality of presentations and the organization continues to impress. We invested considerable time in selecting relevant topics, and the work from Jess and the team has been exceptional. Thank you, Venture for Canada, and thank you to all the participants — you’ve done incredible work. You’ve done some great research, you’ve thought through the problems … you actually live some of the problems yourselves. It has been extraordinary and we are excited to implement some of your great ideas.” - Craig Desjardins, Director, Office of Strategy, Innovation & Partnerships at City of Kingston.

Through collaborative efforts, the hackathon not only provided tangible benefits for international students but also strengthened the ties between the Fellows and the Kingston community. The success of this year’s challenge sets a promising precedent for future initiatives aimed at integrating and supporting international students, ensuring that Kingston continues to thrive as an inclusive and vibrant community


Congratulations to winners Samantha Martin, Kali Beaton, Olivia Harris, Nina Mohtarudin, Ishaan Singh, and Cindy Li.


Along with winners Aaron Li, Thien Pham, Nadira Hussain, Amanda Yuen & Sahawat Nilwatcharamanee.


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About Venture for Canada

Venture for Canada is a national charity that fosters entrepreneurial skills and mindset in young Canadians. To be entrepreneurial is to act upon opportunities to create value for others. We recruit, train, and support young people to work for innovative Canadian small businesses and startups. Through our programs, participants develop the network, knowledge, and entrepreneurial skills to have more impactful careers.


Connect with Venture for Canada:

Website: https://ventureforcanada.ca

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/school/venture-for-canada/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/venture4canada/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Venture4Canada

Podcast: https://perspectives.ventureforcanada.ca/podcast


Venture for Canada Media Contact

Jennie Wedd

Manager, Marketing & Partnerships Team


Kaileigh Klein is a creative and analytical person who mixes her passions for both the creative side and...