New support allows Indigenous youth program to grow nationwide

The Indigenous Youth Mentorship Program, delivered in partnership with associate professor Kate Storey, creates opportunities for Indigenous youth to connect and thrive.

Kate Storey believes one of Canada’s greatest opportunities lies within Indigenous youth, their critical voice, and their role in addressing public health issues. She works to create wholistic environments that nurture mental, spiritual, emotional and physical health that allow kids to learn, grow and thrive. 

Thanks to funding from LEAP | Pecaut Centre for Social Impact and its Healthy Futures program, over the next five years Storey, associate professor in the School of Public Health and Stollery Science Lab Distinguished Researcher, will see twice as many school-aged Indigenous kids across Canada be inspired and empowered to nurture these environments in their own communities. 

The Indigenous Youth Mentorship Program (IYMP) is run in partnership with Storey’s research group SIRCLE (Settings-based Intervention through Changes in Lifestyles and Environments). SIRCLE focuses on community and school-based strategies that prevent chronic diseases and reduce health inequities.

With the support of LEAP and its Healthy Futures program, IYMP is expected to be offered to all communities that aspire to be part of the program – creating a platform for Indigenous youth to connect and thrive. 

Living in a good way

IYMP is an evidence-based peer-led after-school healthy living program that embraces Mino-Bimaadiziwin/Miyo-Pimâtisiwin—or living in a good way—with physical activities and games, a healthy snack and relationship-building. IYMP is grounded in an Indigenous model of resilience (the Circle of Courage), and Indigenous values (the Four Rs). The program, which has been embraced by 50 communities across Canada including 35 in Alberta, is delivered by high school mentors for younger elementary students. It has incredible benefits for both. 

It has proven effective at improving health outcomes of participating children and youth, but Storey says the program’s real impact comes when a young person decides to become a mentor as it opens opportunities related to the social determinants of health. “Mentors experience positive benefits - earning high school credits, bursaries, and gaining employment and life skills.” 

Scaling impact and sustainability 

The LEAP| Pecaut Centre for Social Impact believes in a society where everyone can reach their full potential. The organization connects top-tier private sector expertise (such as Google and EY-Canada) with social ventures to make large-scale impacts. The Healthy Futures program is an accelerator specifically for public health ventures, with funding from the Public Health Agency of Canada.  

For the past two years, Storey, SIRCLE and her partners have worked to determine the essential conditions necessary for communities to run their own program—implementing IYMP beyond a research project. 

“Healthy Futures will give us access to world-class experts and resources. IYMP will have a much broader reach—more students, more grade levels, and more determinants of health will be addressed,” said Storey. “More high school mentors will receive school credits, leadership experience and job opportunities.” 

Partnership, leadership and collaboration

Partnerships are critical to IYMP—with students and with the program’s leadership. The team is guided by Elder Jack Robison. “He is our compass and provides wisdom and ensures our spirit of doing the work in a good way,” Storey said. 

Key to IYMP’s growth and transition to a community-based program is  Ever Active Schools leadership.  The organization's director, Brian Torrance, co-leads this next phase of growth with Storey. “Our leadership is about walking together with youth, communities, a national advisory circle of Elders, researchers and many others,” he explains. 

For more than 10 years IYMP has listened, co-created and proven its good work has impact across multiple generations to live healthier lives. Storey says at its core is friendships, sweat and smiles, leadership and belonging. 


Kate Storey is a Distinguished Researcher in the Stollery Science Lab, a program created by the Stollery Children’s Hospital Foundation, Women and Children’s Health Research Institute and the Stollery Children’s Hospital.


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