A Dhillon School of Business mentoring program at the University of Lethbridge dedicated to supporting Indigenous students is celebrating 10 years of making a difference in participants lives.

Over the past decade, the Scotiabank Mentors Program has encouraged Indigenous middle, high school and university students, as well as alumni, to build supportive relationships that benefit both the mentors and the mentees.

“There's something truly special about being able to play a role, however small, in someone else's journey of self-discovery and personal growth,” says mentor Aysha Partington, a fifth-year Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Education (BA/B.Ed ’24) student from Woodland Cree Nation.

“From the initial stages of building trust and rapport to the moments of breakthrough and achievement, every interaction with my mentees has been filled with mutual learning and growth. Their willingness to step out of their comfort zones, tackle obstacles head-on and embrace new opportunities has taught me the importance of courage, perseverance and the power of resilience.”

The program, part of the university’s Indigenous student supports and funded by Scotiabank and the Mastercard Foundation EleV Program, celebrated its 10th anniversary on May 10th, marking the success of more than 45 mentors and 100 mentees.

Maria Livingston, Indigenous Youth Mentorship Program coordinator, says she’s seen firsthand the positive impact the program has had on the lives of participants.

“There’s one mentor/mentee pairing that stands out. These two were one of the first pairings when the program started and they’re still great friends today. The mentee went on to become a mentor and is now a staff member at ULethbridge,” says Livingston.

“After having the program run for so long, we’re now seeing the results of being consistent in its offering. I’d say that seeing the larger impact of how these smaller activities add up to bigger goals is the greatest success of the program. Supporting the mentees’ goals and encouraging them to reach their full potential is really what this program is all about.”

Indigenous Youth Mentorship Program Coordinator Maria Livingston (left) and mentor Aysha Partington (right).

For Partington, joining the program was an easy decision, one she says was driven by the desire to be the mentor she never had.

“I saw it as an opportunity to provide the kind of support and guidance that I longed for growing up. By sharing my experiences, offering advice and serving as a role model, I hope to empower Indigenous youth to navigate similar challenges with resilience and pride in their cultural heritage,” she says.

“Being a part of this mentorship has been one of the most rewarding experiences. Not only do you get the chance to connect with wonderful mentees who are eager to learn from you, but you also find yourself learning and growing in ways you never expected,” says Partington.

“By investing in the next generation of leaders, thinkers and change-makers, the program ensures the continued growth and prosperity of the community for years to come. The relationships formed through mentorship extend far beyond the duration of the program, creating a ripple effect of positive influence that reverberates throughout the community.”

Livingston says the program’s achievements can, in large part, be attributed to the contributions and commitment of Rhonda Crow, the Indigenous Governance and Business Management (IGBM) program coordinator and Andrea Amelinckx, IGBM’s Area Chair.

“Rhonda’s and Andrea’s leadership and wisdom have been pivotal in making this program successful. It wouldn’t have been possible without their support.”

All program activities are free for mentors and mentees and include everything from beading, hand drum making and hoop dancing to pizza parties, bowling and axe throwing.

“I would wholeheartedly encourage anyone considering joining the program to do it,” says Partington. You can decide how much time you put into it and overall, one of the greatest aspects of this program is its flexibility. It's truly a mutually beneficial experience for both mentors and mentees, offering opportunities for personal and professional development, as well as fostering meaningful connections that can last a lifetime.”

If you’re interested in joining the program as a mentor or mentee, please contact indigenous.mentor@uleth.ca. Mentors must be current Indigenous University of Lethbridge students or alumni, and mentees are Indigenous students in middle or high school.