Indigenous Tutoring and Mentoring Program (ITMP)

Team members: Todd Nelson (SFU Behavioural Neuroscience), Jessica Seemann (SFU Alumni), Basil Giannopoulos (SFU Engineering Science)

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Project Description

The disparity of high school graduation rates between Indigenous and non-Indigenous students is well documented. A 2020 article by the Globe and Mail places graduation rates for First Nations people living off-reserve at 75% – over 15% lower than the non-Indigenous population (1). This is also highlighted in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s Call to Action #7, which states that there are current gaps in the educational and employment rates between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Canadians (2). A 2018 report on the Academy of Indigenous Studies identified two major contributing factors to the dropout of Indigenous students: personal factors, such as low familial aspirations and lack of positive role models, and school system factors, such as lack of Indigenous perspectives in the classroom and lack of sense of belonging in the school community (3). Another 2017 study noted that structural oppressions including poverty, suppression of identities, racism, and gender violence create barriers to the success of Indigenous students and lead to poor educational outcomes (4). In order to address the discrepancies noted here, our team created the Indigenous Tutoring & Mentoring Program (ITMP) in January 2021.

Our goal with this program is to create meaningful relationships between Indigenous students and their tutors and mentors. These relationships can inspire the students to continually strive for excellence and reach for academic and career goals they may have not previously seen as possible. Our tutors are designed to act as positive role models for the students, engaging them with their studies. With the support of the SFU Student-Community Engagement Competition and various Indigenous communities across BC, we plan to create cultural workshops, allowing Indigenous youth to connect with their Elders and cultural identities, as well as tutoring programs in school districts, allowing Indigenous students to contribute to and create belonging for themselves in their school community. Finally we hope to explore issues affecting the Indigenous communities we serve and collaborate with them to create systemic change at school and government levels.

Community Partners:

Indigenous Education Council (IEC) SD78, Indigenous Support Workers (ISWs) SD78

Note: the terminology used in the cited statistics reflects that used in the referenced studies.


  1. Globe editorial: More Indigenous people in Canada are graduating from high school than ever. It’s still not nearly enough - The Globe and Mail. (n.d.). Retrieved January 14, 2022, from ting-from-high-school/
  2. Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. (2018). Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Calls to Action. EdCan Network.
  3. Rebeiz, A. (2018). Reconciliation in Action: Creating a Learning Community for Indigenous Student Success Reconciliation in Action: Creating a Learning Community for Indigenous Student Success A case study report on how one B.C. high school is mobilizing a whole-community approach to raise Indigenous graduation rates With practical applications from Mount Boucherie Secondary School’s Academy of Indigenous Studies. EdCan Network.
  4. Harper, A. O., & Thompson, S. (n.d.). Structural oppressions facing Indigenous students in Canadian education | Fourth World Journal.