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

Penticton Vees recognized on and off ice success

The awards were given out following their Saturday night win.

Dale family was prominent in Summerland’s past

Ruth Dale taught for many years

Penticton Vees comeback for overtime win to end regular season

The Vees were down 3-0 to start the third before putting together an epic comeback.

PHOTOS: Celebrating diversity in Penticton

Seventh annual OneWorld Festival celebrates the worlds of different cultures in the South Okanagan.

Fiery collision involving truck closes Highway 1 at Three Valley Gap

Drivers should expect major delays and congestion; estimated time of re-opening is 2 p.m.

Governor general says multiple solutions needed for ‘complicated’ overdose issue

Julie Payette met at a fire hall with firefighters and police officers as well as politicians and health experts

Violent ends to past Indigenous protests haunt Trudeau government

Trudeau adopted a more assertive tone Friday, insisting the barricade must come down

Kelowna Firefighters douse suspicious hedge fire

A 30’ section of cedar hedge burned prompting an RCMP investigation.

Kelowna RCMP make arrest in fatal stabbing of 16-year-old Elijah Beauregard

An 18-year-old woman is in police custody facing a manslughter charge.

HIGHLIGHTS: Day one and two at the 2020 BC Winter Games

Athletes had sunny – but cold – weather to work with in Fort St. John

BC Senior Curling titles to be decided in Vernon

Wes Craig, Penny Shantz looking for fifth championships; Steve Wright, Donna Mychaluk into finals

B.C. money laundering inquiry to begin amid hopes for answers, accountability

Eby argued that most B.C. residents already know the previous government, at best, turned a blind eye

Most Read