Laura Vail, KPU Director of Student Success, is helping the university launch a pilot mentorship program between former youth-in-care and faculty this Fall. (Amei-lee Laboucan/Spotlight Child Welfare)

B.C. university to offer mentorship program for former youth in care

Students using the provincial tuition waiver program will soon be able to form a community at KPU

  • Jun. 15, 2019 5:00 p.m.

By: Amei-lee Laboucan

A Lower Mainland university is taking steps to bring together former youth in care who make use of the provincial tuition waiver program.

Of the 806 former youth in care who are using the waivers in British Columbia, 25 of them are currently studying at Kwantlen Polytechnic University in Surrey, according to Laura Vail, Director of Student Success for the university.

Last year, Vail told The Runner that KPU is excited to see students accessing the program and encourages anyone interested in using it to talk to the university’s counsellors and advisors.

“The provincial support these students are getting is so incredibly important to providing access to such a wide range of students who might not have had an opportunity otherwise to attend post-secondary institutions,” she said.

KPU English student Olivia Anderson says she is “not confident that [she] would actually be in university if there wasn’t a tuition waiver.”

PART ONE: ‘No act of reconciliation is too small,’ says B.C. advanced education minister

If the financial barriers to taking post-secondary classes had not been removed for her, Anderson believes her capability to do well in school would decline.

“I would be working a lot in order to make that money and I wouldn’t really be able to focus on school and do well,” she says.

Vail says that KPU has brought students who make use of the tuition waivers together to meet each other in the past. However, with how quickly the waiver program grew, the university was not able to continue to provide that support. Now KPU is getting ready to help unite that community again using a mentorship program between faculty and former youth in care.

“We’re gearing up to do better [for former foster kids] because tuition is a very small part [of university], and giving them a sense of belonging, a sense of support, having somebody to go [to is what KPU is focused on],” says Vail.

While obtaining her Bachelor’s degree in English with a minor in Political Science, Anderson says that there are times that she feels isolated as a former youth in care.

“You need someone there to be interested in asking the right questions,” she says. “It might help to have support from professors.”

During the fall semester last year, Anderson was experiencing a stressful family situation. This is the sort of problem that she believes the mentorship program will be able to help former youth in care navigate while still attending class.

“Having the relief of knowing this is okay, this is just your situation and [professors] understand, that makes all the difference,” she says.

READ MORE: B.C. program to help foster kids enter adulthood a mixed bag of experiences

Right now, Anderson doesn’t know any of the other students who are former youth in care accessing tuition waivers at KPU. She says that getting to know them would provide her with a sense of belonging.

“If I’m talking to someone and they have a struggle I’ve faced and overcome, then I can help [them] with that,” she explains.

KPU plans on rolling out the pilot project during the fall 2019 semester.

Anderson has received an email inviting her to a meet and greet with other former youth in care at KPU, which she plans to attend.

“Seeing other people from your community succeed is empowering, enheartening, and productive,” she says.


This story was produced as part of Spotlight: Child Welfare — a collaborative journalism project that aims to deepen reporting on B.C.’s child-welfare system. It was originally published on The Runner. Tell us what you think about the story.

spotlight child welfare

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Tap Truck Okanagan launches as first location in Canada

The business is built on a restored 1957 Chevy panel van and ready to serve craft beer on tap, wine or cider

Police watchdog investigating Lake Country incident

A man was taken to hospital after the June 3 incident

Community backlash over Black Lives Matter rally in Kelowna

Some members of Kelowna’s black community stated they don’t support Friday’s rally

$30,000 over 30 weeks for local causes

Send us your good stories and you could win money for your favourite cause

VIDEO: B.C. dentist gets grand welcome home after two months in hospital fighting COVID-19

Michael Chow was given a surprise send off by hospital staff and ‘welcome home’ from neighbours

‘Like finding a needle in a haystack’: Ancient arrowhead discovered near Williams Lake

The artifact is believed to be from the Nesikip period between 7,500 BP to 6,000 BP

Indigenous families say their loved ones’ deaths in custody are part of pattern

Nora Martin joins other Indigenous families in calling for a significant shift in policing

Friends, family mourn Salt Spring Island woman killed in suspected murder-suicide

A GoFundMe campaign has been launched for Jennifer Quesnel’s three sons

PHOTOS: Anti-racism protesters gather in communities across B.C.

More protests are expected through the weekend

Indigenous chief alleges RCMP beat him during arrest that began over expired licence plate

Athabasca Chipewyan Chief Allan Adam calling for independent investigation

‘I’m pissed, I’m outraged’: Federal minister calls out police violence against Indigenous people

Indigenous Minister Marc Miller spoke on recent incidents, including fatal shooting of a B.C. woman

UPDATED: Pair accused of ‘horrific’ assault at Vancouver’s Oppenheimer Park arrested

Police say Jason Tapp, 30, and Nicole Edwards, 33, did not show up to meet their bail supervisor this week

Most Read