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)

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

Just Posted

Bentley resting on a bench at Kal Park in Vernon not knowing there is a baby rattlesnake curled up below. Bentley jumped down and was bit by the snake. (Facebook)
Dog bit by baby rattler at popular Vernon park

The rattlesnake was hidden underneath a park bench when it struck out

Kelowna flags were flown at half-mast after the discovery of a residential school burial site in Kamloops. (File photo)
Central Okanagan school board chair reflects on recent tragedies

Moyra Baxter offers condolenses to residential school victims, slain Muslim family

Kierra Smith (Contributed)
Kelowna swimmer headed to Toronto hoping to qualify for Olympics

If she qualifies, it will be Kierra Smith’s second time swimming at the Olympics

(Dave Ogilvie/Contributed
SUV hurdles down embankment in West Kelowna

The road was down to one lane while a tow truck pulled it up from the hill

The RCMP presence in Central Okanagan public schools is being reviewed by the board of education. (File photo)
RCMP presence welcomed in Central Okanagan public schools

Staff survey feedback overwhelmingly positive from students, staff and parents

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

Jane Linden
KCR: Volunteering keeps you active

Kelowna Community Resources shares stories of its volunteers in a weekly column

Longtime SOWINS volunteer Diane Fru (far left) walks with members of her family as they Walk To End Abuse Sunday, June 13, 2021. South Okanagan Women In Needs Society (SOWINS) raised a record amount this year. (Monique Tamminga Western News)
Walk to End Abuse in South Okanagan breaks fundraising record

More than $53,000 raised so far while the pandemic has increased need for SOWINS’ services

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller is seen during a news conference, Wednesday May 19, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Indigenous child-welfare battle heads to court despite calls for Ottawa to drop cases

Feds are poised to argue against two Canadian Human Rights Tribunal rulings

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

“65 years, I’ve carried the stories in my mind and live it every day,” says Jack Kruger. (Athena Bonneau)
‘Maybe this time they will listen’: Survivor shares stories from B.C. residential school

Jack Kruger, living in Syilx territory, wasn’t surprised by news of 215 children’s remains found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School

Most Read