Students Helping Students: Peer Mentoring Spells Success for Inner-City Kids

Students Helping Students: Peer Mentoring Spells Success for Inner-City Kids

School of Public Health initiative gives students in Edmonton’s 118 Avenue corridor a head start on success.

By Katie Willis, U of A

Students from Highlands Junior High and Montrose Elementary School demonstrate indoor curling, part of the peer mentorship program between the schools.

Each week, the students meet to play games and learn about one another. The mentorship project promotes physical activity and healthy relationships—but most importantly, it helps to build a community amongst children in the 118 Avenue corridor in Edmonton.

This project is one of many for the Alberta Healthy Schools Community Wellness Fund (Wellness Fund), a joint initiative between the School of Public Health at the University of Alberta, Alberta Health and Alberta Education.

Recently, a media event was held at Highlands Junior High School to celebrate and showcase the impact the Wellness Fund is having on schools across Alberta. Elizabeth Coldbeck, project coordinator with the Wellness Fund, Nicole Goehring, MLA for Edmonton-Castledowns and representatives of the schools spoke about the importance of investing in comprehensive school health and the difference they see in students.

The event concluded with students from Montrose and Highlands demonstrating one of the activities they’ve been learning together—indoor curling.

libbymeda300x200“For these students, the mentorship program creates a sense of belonging and connectedness. The impact? Students feel more valuable, supported and engaged,” explains Coldbeck.

In addition to the peer-mentoring program, Highlands Junior High School has received funding for a number of other wellness related projects, including a school garden, relationship development activities, exercise classes, as well as numerous stress management and self-care projects. For students, these initiatives make a world of difference.

“What I see changing most in the time I have had the privilege of being at Highlands School is that our students have discovered hope,” says Brad Burns, principal and educator at Highlands Junior High School.

“It does take the entire community to meet the needs of students and we see the results of this work every day as students come to school excited to learn.”

The Wellness Fund provides grants and facilitated support for projects like these across Alberta. These initiatives focus on healthy relationships and positive mental health, healthy food environments, active school communities and creating safe school communities. Grants range from $2,000 to $60,000 depending on the size and jurisdiction of the project. In 2015, the Wellness Fund approved 72 grants, 46 of which were at a jurisdictional level, across the province.

Provincial funding for the Wellness Fund has recently been renewed. The group will receive $7 million in funding from the Government of Alberta over the next three years.

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