Professional Profiles

Aboriginal mentors eager to work with students

Cody Caruso and Miranda Kelly. Photo by Greg Ehlers.

By Amy Robertson

Miranda Kelly says she remembers what it was like to feel lost in a sea of numbers in her first year of university. A mentor during her fourth year of study helped her immensely—and in the spring of 2013, she was able to give back. 

A health planner at the First Nations Health Authority, Kelly was one of several mentors with SFU’s Aboriginal Health Mentorship Project in the spring of 2013.

She drew inspiration from her own university mentor, who helped her build her confidence and find her strengths. After beginning her career, she was eager to give the same opportunity to someone else.

“I always thought that if there was an opportunity to give back and pay it forward, I’d like to participate,” she says.

Kelly was paired with a student who completed a project on youth suicide. Kelly shared some resources and examples of effective PowerPoint presentations, and was extremely proud of what her mentee came up with. She also found the learning relationship was reciprocal.

“I really appreciated how the student brought her own perspective to the work,” she says, explaining that hearing the young woman’s take on issues that affect young people was valuable because experienced professionals can sometimes be “adult-centric.”

Cody Caruso, another project mentor from the First Nations Health Authority, was equally enthused about his experience with the Aboriginal Health Mentorship Project. As a health careers coordinator, his job is to address the shortage of Aboriginal workers in health care. He was thrilled to work with future health professionals, finding it enriching to learn from them.

“I was really blown away,” he says. “It’s not every day that you meet with someone who wants to change the world.”

Caruso believes mentoring is a vital, and often underused, part of education practice, and he hopes to keep being involved.

“Doing something as simple as developing a relationship with these students as a way to nurture that passion is only going to be mutually beneficial for all of us; we have many gifts to share with each other—young or old, student or teacher, employee or employer, youth or elder. Mentoring is something that is reciprocal in nature—rarely ever one-way.”

Read more about the Aboriginal Health Mentorship Project in a related story: Mentorship project inspires Aboriginal students.