This project is being championed by Nik Nanos, founder of Nanos Research and Past Chair of Carleton’s Board of Governors. Over the course of the 2018-2019 academic year, the Carleton University Indigenous Strategic Initiatives Committee (CUISIC) facilitated widespread engagement sessions in order to develop a set of Carleton-specific recommendations as part of an institutional response to support the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. As Past Chair of the Board, Mr. Nanos has been integral in helping to establish this fund as part of his commitment to supporting programs that provide access to higher education.
Carleton’s Indigenous Enriched Support Program (IESP) supports the educational aspirations and success of Indigenous youth. Through its school mentoring program, it offers an opportunity for Carleton students to work as peer mentors with Indigenous elementary and high school students in the Ottawa area, through involvement in the classroom, lunchtime or after-school programs and/or cultural clubs By matching Carleton Indigenous students with Indigenous youth, the program strengthens educational opportunities for Indigenous youth across critical developmental periods.
Carleton students mentor weekly at one or more of the following sites: the Odawa Urban Aboriginal Alternative High School, which offers a fully Indigenous and holistic learning environment; Queen Elizabeth Public School, which offers extensive learning opportunities and supports for Indigenous students; and the Odawa Native Friendship Centre Akwego Program, an after-school cultural program for children and youth.
The mentors are role models who provide cultural knowledge and activities as well as academic support for Indigenous students by sharing learning strategies, participating in traditional activities and offering practical advice. Using their own elementary, high school and post-secondary experiences mentors help Indigenous students bridge the transitions between elementary, high school, post-secondary and career pathways. The positive relationship between mentor and student helps increase confidence, contributes to the achievement of goals, and fosters an understanding about learning and life challenges. Mentors themselves work in cohesive teams and support each other throughout the school year. This position is of interest to Carleton students in all disciplines, and provides experience that has been of particular benefit to those interested in teaching, social work, child and youth work, recreation, and other human services professions. It also offers a unique opportunity to develop strong leadership skills.
Many of the students who receive mentoring are facing tremendous challenges in their personal lives —issues of poverty, homelessness, early parenthood, and, in some cases, abuse. Student mentors offer a source of stability and support that can create defining moments in times of major life decisions, such as the choice to stay in school..
The program currently runs with 10 mentors and 50-60 mentees and is in high demand. With new donor support, programming could be expanded in the following ways:
- Suicide prevention workshops. Suicide rates in Canada are three times higher among the Indigenous population than the non-Indigenous population, with the highest instances occurring among youth and young adults. There are professional workshops IESP would like to be able to enroll its program participants in to combat this alarming reality. This will include providing our mentors with vital training on intervention.
- Cultural workshops (examples include: beading, drum making, ribbon skirt making, moccasin/mukluk making, snowshoe making, mitten making). These are wonderful opportunities for students to connect and become more involved in their Indigenous communities. In some cases, Elders would be invited to participate and lead activities.
- Field trips where mentors and mentees can visit a local museum, healing lodge or similar place. These are great opportunities for learning beyond the traditional classroom.