Mentorship program receives helping hand
“To know that you’re making a difference in a child’s life is an experience that is really hard to describe,” Anderson said.
The St. Albert mother of three began mentoring kids almost a decade ago and was introduced to her latest mentee seven years ago when the girl was in Grade 1.
“She’s taught me about resiliency, she’s taught me about unconditional love. When I’m having a bad day, I just have to look at her,” said Anderson.
“There’s a mother’s love for her children … and then there is a love for a child that you bring into your heart just because they need to be loved. That’s an experience that is indescribable.”
On Tuesday, the province announced an additional $1 million to the Alberta Mentoring Partnership, which includes representatives from numerous government ministries, community mentoring organizations and youth.
The new funding boosts the government’s total contribution to the partnership to $4.2 million.
Over the last three years, the partnership has provided online mentor training to more than 900 people, trained more than 1,000 students as mentors through high school teen programs and organized two mentoring recruitment campaigns.
The new funding will help the partnership support community programs and build local capacity to provide more mentoring opportunities.
“There’s a lot of small organizations across the province doing really, really good work … that sometimes means the smaller the agency, the more the staff turnover,” said Liz O’Neill of St. Albert, also the Alberta Mentoring Partnership co-chair and executive director of Big Brothers and Big Sisters Society of Edmonton and Area.
“We can support the infrastructure so that local agencies can be back doing the important work of screening and matching and supporting those volunteers in children’s lives,” O’Neill said.
The very first high school mentoring program in the province started at Bellerose Composite High School in St. Albert, she noted. For the last six years, Grade 10 and 11 students there have mentored inner-city kids in Edmonton once a week.
O’Neill said those prospective mentors are taught how to build a relationship with a child and how to keep them safe, plus other activities helpful to children.
There are numerous benefits to children involved in mentorship programs, she said, including lower alcohol and tobacco usage and a greater chance of finishing high school.
“We know that they have better peer relationships and we know that they have a higher sense of hope and aspiration for the future,” said O’Neill.
The partnership is looking at ways to increase the number of mentors across the province, particularly in rural and remote communities and for aboriginal and immigrant kids.
“Many of our aboriginal children and immigrant and newcomer children are really struggling with school so we can teach people how to use homework, for example, as a way to engage an activity,” she said.
In addition to school-based mentorship programs, St. Albert also offers the Sidekicks Mentorship Program, through the Community Information Volunteer Centre (CIVC). Programs offered through Big Brothers and Big Sisters Society of Edmonton and Area are also offered in St. Albert, Morinville and Legal.