Fostering trust, nurturing confidence
Enbridge corporate mentoring program with BGCBigs provides role models for kids
What’s the definition of a “win-win” mentoring program?
According to Liz O’Neill, it’s a productive exchange between mentor and pupil – or, in the language of Edmonton’s Boys and Girls Clubs Big Brothers Big Sisters (BGCBigs), between “bigs” and “littles.”
With school back in session for the fall, BGCBigs and Enbridge are about to begin the fifth year of a groundbreaking on-site corporate mentoring program in Edmonton – an initiative that pairs up grade-schoolchildren with Enbridge employees in Alberta’s capital, and provides kids inspiration, acceptance, and a sympathetic ear.
Developing a trusting, positive, and ongoing relationship with an adult role model helps these students develop confidence and establish greater self-esteem – and often results in improved grades, attendance, and social and communication skills.
“The students gain a new confidence, and the mentorship allows them to see that they too could have a rewarding career,” says O’Neill, executive director with Edmonton’s BGCBigs. “They come back from these experiences with a heightened career interest, and their teachers often notice how much the students have been lifted up.”
Once a week during the school year, Grade 5 kids from Montrose School – an east Edmonton behavioral and inclusion learning school – arrive at Enbridge’s offices on Jasper Avenue for some one-on-one time with their corporate mentors, which includes reading, arts and crafts, and puzzles or board games.
“These are Aboriginal youth, and new Canadians, and other kids from underprivileged backgrounds whose families love them dearly, but may not have the resources, connections or networks that are so important to kids starting out in the working world,” says O’Neill.
During these weekly sessions, which began in 2011, students also learn about the work their Enbridge mentors are performing and, as a result, their horizons are broadened as they learn about what it takes to succeed in professional life.
“Montrose is so fortunate to continue our partnership and mentoring program with Enbridge. It provides an opportunity for our students to develop and foster positive, consistent and long-lasting relationships with a trusted adult on a weekly basis,” says Laurie Caines, principal at Montrose School.
“The benefits gained are so influential,” adds Caines. “Words can’t begin to express our appreciation. It truly is all about relationship and positive connections.”
Since September 2011, a total of 63 Enbridge employees have been involved in the program, including 29 current participants, says Juli Nguyen, who co-ordinates Enbridge’s participation in this BGCBigs initiative.
“The ‘bigs’ get as much out of it as they give,” says Nguyen, who notes that five Enbridge staff in Edmonton are also involved in BGCBigs matches. “They go away feeling more engaged, more hopeful, more confident that they’re making a difference.”
O’Neill wants to expand the mentorship program, and hopes other companies will follow Enbridge’s lead.
“Enbridge’s support and participation has made such a difference to so many kids in Edmonton that we really want to see the program grow,” she says.