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.

Just Posted

Lake Country aims to find happy-medium in Airport Inn shutdown

Airport Inn residents will have until Oct. 5. to find a new home unless an appeal is approved

Mayor says speculation tax is misplaced in West Kelowna

‘I don’t think they really did their due diligence,’ West Kelowna mayor says

Okanagan bike fundraiser raises $146,000 for MS research

Over 130 cyclists from the Okanagan came together to bike for a greater cause

Update: Kelowna Costco may be on the move, council to hear plans within 6 months

Costco has submitted plans to move to a newer Kelowna location

Kelowna Chamber of Commerce release nominees for 2019 Business Excellence Awards

Nominations were submitted by both the local community and businesses

Shambhala named best music festival in North America

Shambhala Music Festival is held at the Salmo River Ranch in B.C.

Okanagan resident recalls recovery journey after heart attack

Gerry Bakker shares his experience after his heart attack 16 years ago at the age of 48

B.C. MLA calls on province to restrict vaping as first related illness appears in Canada

Todd Stone, Liberal MLA for Kamloops-South Thompson, introduced an anti-vaping bill in April

Chilliwack woman wins right to medically assisted death after three-year court battle

Julia Lamb has been the lead plaintiff in a legal battle to ease restrictions on Canada’s assisted dying laws

B.C. bus crash survivor petitions feds to fix road where classmates died

UVic student’s petition well over halfway to 5k signature goal

Concert raised funds for Agur Lake Camp

Tim Nutt was headline act at Comedy Night Fundraiser in Summerland

Summerland music promoter wins national award

Paul Biro honoured at 2019 CCMA Awards in Calgary

NDP, Liberals promise more spending, while Tories promise spending cuts

Making life more affordable for Canadians a focus in the 2019 election

Most Read