Aboriginal eMentoring BC (eMentoring) aims to develop and implement an online mentorship program for Aboriginal youth to support their successful transition into post-secondary health sciences programs.
The original idea for this project emerged from conversations between Dr. Sandra Jarvis-Selinger and the UBC Faculty of Medicine’s Aboriginal coordinator, Mr. James Andrew. One of Mr. Andrew’s roles is to speak with grade 12 students across British Columbia about UBC’s mission to improve Aboriginal representation in medical school and across the health sciences. It became apparent to him that a number of students were interested in health science careers but were either not doing well in school or had dropped out and believed they had missed their chance. Indeed, it is too often the case that Aboriginal students finish high school and then look into a health career only to realize they’ve dropped a course or don’t have the credits, effectively shutting those doors.
In response to these initial conversations, Dr. Jarvis-Selinger convened an interest group at UBC with representatives from departments, centres, and institutes whose missions include Aboriginal education. The group agreed that an online support network could be established to support students across the province in building relationships with university health science students to realize their potential well before they reached grade 12.
Ongoing communication within this interest group led to a successful four-year Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) research grant titled Aboriginal eMentoring BC. Because eMentoring was designed as a community-university partnership, its development required close partnerships with various stakeholders. Using collaborative and inclusive principles, our research group has forged partnerships with both Aboriginal communities and school districts across the province to support and engage mentees as well as strategic institutional/organizational partnerships to support health science student mentors.
All partners have embraced the project and have committed to making eMentoring an organizational priority, attesting that the aims of eMentoring connect with the struggles they and their youth face. As a result, and in our first intake, we have 59 mentees and 45 mentors communicating on eMentoring’s platform.
eMentoring combines the established need to support academic success of Aboriginal students, with strong evidence of online mentoring’s impact on positive educational outcomes. Our program is about empowering Aboriginal youth to keep their options open for a career in health, and offering these students the chance to positively impact their lives.