Celebrating Indigenous History Month Through the Power of Mentoring and the importance of choice

Starbucks partner and member of the Nisga'a First Nation, Stephanie, has been outspoken about the ways that mentorship helped her thrive. Stephanie, a Starbucks store manager in North Vancouver, is the child of an Indian Day School survivor and the grandchild of residential school survivors and has been a fierce advocate for the mentorship of Indigenous youth in Canada.

Last September, in celebration and recognition of National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, Stephanie, along with members of the Starbucks Indigenous Partner Network, joined MENTOR Canada—an organization committed to expanding access to mentoring for youth—​​for an inaugural Indigenous Power of Mentoring event, focused on expanding networks, enhancing skills and increasing access to employment.  

Since that first event last year, Stephanie and members of the IPN have come together with Indigenous youth across the country to engage in what are now quarterly virtual mentoring events, the most recent of which was held just this week—a particularly powerful time as it marked the beginning of National Indigenous History Month. During this month, the nation recognizes the rich history, heritage, resilience and diversity of First Nations, Inuit and Métis Peoples across the country.

The evening started with a prayer of gratitude and teaching from community storyteller Adrian L, a land acknowledgement by Tanya Tourangeau, MENTOR Canada's Indigenous Engagement Lead, followed by personal story sharing from Starbucks Volunteer Mentors. They spoke about their journeys as Indigenous Peoples and as allies. By creating this space for personal sharing and connection by mentors, youth mentees have the opportunity to select who they want to be mentored by, putting the power of choice in their hands.      

"Understanding some of the barriers that some Indigenous youth face based on their lived experience, dictating who they will receive mentorship from doesn't give room for genuine relationships and the right kind of support to be shared," says Starbucks partner and mentor Sara, speaking about the importance of choice when it comes to mentorship. Leach noted that the mentorship program has evolved, enabling youth attendees to feel more comfortable choosing who they want to talk to, something not typically offered at mentorship events. She shares that these connections are essential to helping Indigenous youth thrive.

For Indigenous youth, mentorship can act as not just a tool for success but also as a foundation of support, acceptance and encouragement. 

Founded in the fall of 2020 by Starbucks partners (employees) Sara and Jessica, the IPN has been fostering safe and supportive spaces where Indigenous partners and their allies share their experiences and learn from one another. Today, more than 500 members come together through various events and platforms to connect, build allyship, and continue to advocate for opportunities for and within Indigenous communities.

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