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Indigenous Youth Mentorship Program (IYMP)
The Indigenous Youth Mentorship program (IYMP) is a leadership opportunity for secondary students (the mentors) in which they offer an after-school program for the younger students. Their program involves providing a nutritious snack and a structured activity or series of games created and delivered by the mentors. They first receive training in the basics of nutrition through a partnership with Registered Dieticians from the local First Nation Health Centre and/or Alberta Health Services, as well as learn how to facilitate, and involve the younger students in, games and some sport activities.
Without Dr. Kate Storey from the University of Alberta, Ever Active Schools would not be able to offer as comprehensive a program as we do.
We support several IYMP programs throughout the Treaty regions in Alberta. Schools have reported increased student attendance on days when the mentorship program is offered. In addition, the increased physical activity helps students to reach the recommended daily physical activity levels. One of the great things about the Indigenous Youth Mentorship Program is that the younger students have access to their mentors within their home community: this allows a relationship to exist outside of the school and program context to strengthen the whole community. A goal of IYMP is for it to be a sustainable program that school communities can continue to facilitate going forward.
Currently, we are working to expand the reach of IYMP to more First Nations schools. Through the provision of retreat-style training for the mentors, this program arms the older students with the skills, knowledge and support they need to deliver a fun and physically active after-school program. Our Resilient Schools team provides support, increases networks, and finds creative solutions to challenges faced by each unique school community. For example, some First Nations schools on reserve only offer up to grade nine. In one of these communities, IYMP has partnered with an off-reserve high school and transports the mentors to the on-reserve school they once attended to work within their community.
This project has been supported through several partnerships. It started as a project, with measurable outcomes related to physical wellness such as weight. This program has grown into a weekly activity that is dedicated to fun, physical activity and nutrition. Some programs have incorporated their local culture, thereby taking a more holistic approach to the program delivery, by including prayer and smudging ceremonies at the start of each session. This action has proven to be a great success as most youth in the community programs understand the impact of the sacred medicine and the role ‘grounding the youth through prayer’ plays.
"Two youth have been instrumental in the program by buying in to the youth mentorship piece. Both students have done a remarkable job in the program as youth leaders and have taken on the task of building bridges between families who were previously divided in the community. This program is helping the community to heal by breaking down barriers between families that have prevented children from relating positively to one another."
- Principal of partner school