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Partnership makes teen mentoring program possible.

The Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Canada has partnered with Flying Dust First Nation to offer a teen mentoring program.

"This is a pilot project that was offered to Flying Dust First Nation, where the need for inschool teen mentoring was identified. This is a great initiative of active rolemodelling that is needed in this community," said Josh Durocher, youth coordinator overlooking the program for Flying Dust First Nation.

Normally, Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Canada works with communities of a population of at least 10,000.

"The reason for this being, it is a concern that programs need to be sustainable and occupy the capacity to grow," said Karen Shaver, vice-president of agency services with Big Brothers/Big Sisters (Ontario). "The problem with this (is) that most First Nations communities have been excluded and this needs to change."

The pilot project has been in the works for over a year and a half following discussion and consultation. This past October, the agreement was signed, which allows high school students from Flying Dust who attend school in Meadow Lake to be partnered with elementary kids from the reserve.

The agreement makes Flying Dust an affiliate member of Big Brothers/Big Sisters, which provides support in the operation of the program.

"The overall excitement and response from students has been overwhelming. There are a lot of youth looking forward to getting started," said Durocher.

Durocher has been attending schools in the community of Meadow Lake to drum up interest from the students. Currently, there are 33 high-school youth that signed up on their own and 26 are Aboriginal. There is also a church group interested that would potentially add another 15 mentors.

The goal of the program is to get 40 elementary-aged students partnered with a role model. However, with all the interest there may be more mentors then children.

Durocher, since being hired as youth coordinator, has been attending after-school programming, which has generated a lot of buzz around this partnership.

"I am excited to get started with the program. Many of these children come from very broken homes with little support or stability. Often this affects the attendance of the children and their motivation to be in school. A positive role model can be the push that these children need to thrive and become more dedicated students," said Durocher.

This one year pilot project has the potential to be a stepping-stone for other First Nations. The outcomes of the program will be reviewed at the end of the year to determine whether this type of mentoring project fits in with a First Nations model.

Durocher is optimistic. "This is a great program that will allow kids to have someone they can trust in the school who can guide them. I believe this program will be successful because of initial community response and the desire to see our children achieve success. I hope to see other First Nations communities provincially and nationally jump on board."

BY ROY POGORZELSKI

Sage Writer

MEADOW LAKE

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Author:Pogorzelski, Roy
Publication:Saskatechewan Sage
Date:Feb 1, 2012
Words:497
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