For the past three years, I’ve managed the Business Network for Aboriginal Youth (BNAY), which is a mentorship program that uses social media, smartphone technology, and in person conferences to attract Aboriginal high school students across Nova Scotia to the study of business at the post-secondary level. When the program was originally launched in 2011, many wondered how we’d find 30 Aboriginal high school students with an interest in business. It was a surprise to many when 450 applications were received during the three year pilot, including over 200 in year one alone (for 30 seats). By the end of year three, 69 students had completed all of the requirements for the program; of the 42 that were in grade 12, over half moved on to study at the post-secondary level, including 13 in business. It goes to show you that anything is possible when you have a unique idea, students who are eager to learn, and a hard working team of mentors and staff!
As a result of an increase in funding from the Government of Canada, we will be expanding the BNAY nationally and will be known as In.Business: A Business Network for Indigenous Youth. In.Business will operate in five regions across Canada and will include approximately 300 students and 50 mentors from all provinces and territories. I will be managing the eastern region, which will include approximately 60 students and 10 mentors from Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland, Prince Edward Island, and Listiguj, Quebec.
Over the past three years I’ve developed strong relationships with students, parents, schools, First Nation communities, and various Aboriginal organizations – all of which played a major part in making this program so successful. Now that the program is expanding, I feel as if I am entering (somewhat) uncharted waters. I have some useful contacts in other provinces in the region, but nothing compared to what I’ve acquired across Nova Scotia. I’ve started reaching out to various educational bodies across the region and the feedback has been very positive. As I proceed towards launching in select schools across the region this fall, it will be important to be flexible with my approach and delivery. I cannot assume that everything that worked in Nova Scotia will work in other provinces. The eastern region will see students separated by over 1600 kilometers – from Listuguj First Nation, Quebec to Miawpukek First Nation, Newfoundland. Regardless of this great distance, making sure the program is educational, challenging, and fun for all students will continue to be the top priority!
If you would like more information about the program or want to get involved, I encourage you to get in touch with me. I will be looking for mentors in each of the five provinces to get involved in the program. I hope to assemble a diverse group of mentors who are relatively young, Aboriginal, university educated, working in business, and have an interest in working with youth. If you are living in the eastern region and this sound like you (or someone you know), I’d love to hear from you! Click here for my contact information.