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Summit aims to improve adolescent mental health

August 31, 2021 Mark Milne, ATA News Staff

Changing young lives through the power of mentoring will be the focus of an upcoming virtual summit that is now open to registrations from teachers and school leaders.

The Oct. 20 event hosted by the Alberta Mentoring Partnership (AMP) is designed to connect schools with the mentoring organizations and government agencies in their community.

“We’re hoping it will get people excited and be another opportunity for schools and organizations that work with schools to connect,” said AMP spokesperson Caroline Gosling.

Titled Supporting Adolescent Mental Health by Strengthening Webs of Supports, the full-day summit will be particularly important this year because of the fallout from COVID-19, Gosling said, as the social restrictions during the pandemic have had a significant impact on the relationships between teens and those in their support system.

“Some of our children and youth that had lots of support pre-COVID are now feeling like they have lost some of those connections,” Gosling said. “As we come out of COVID, that idea of having mentors, whether formal or informal, is so much more critical for our children and youth’s well-being.”

 Derek Peterson, keynote speaker

The importance of anchors

The summit will feature a youth panel, as well as six breakout sessions focusing on a variety of teen mentoring topics. The event will open with keynote speaker Derek Peterson, an international child and youth advocate.

“We’re looking at expanding our definition of mentorship,” Gosling said. “Derek’s work examines the idea of informal mentors and how youth can identify the people already in their lives that play a supportive adult role.”

The primary focus of Peterson’s career has been working with northern communities to examine the support teens get from the adults in their world. He calls these natural mentors “anchors.”

“Growing up I had many, many natural mentors,” Peterson said. “They were our neighbours, fellow congregants in church, ... people who loved my parents.”

His data shows that schools offer an ideal environment for children and youth to connect with one or more life-changing anchors.

“You hope you get that teacher, staff member or volunteer who sees the gifts inside you and brings them out,” he said.

Peterson’s research indicates that a thick web of anchors in a child’s life has a strong correlation with their ability to thrive and avoid risk behaviours later in life. He points out, however, that teachers alone cannot possibly fill this role for every student who seeks it.

“We need to be aware of ways to invite other people into these kids’ lives,” he said. ❚

About AMP

Created in 2008, the Alberta Mentoring Partnership (AMP) now consists of 170-plus school and agency members. The partnership is co-led by the Government of Alberta (Children’s Services and Education) and Boys & Girls Clubs Big Brothers Big Sisters (BGCBigs) of Edmonton and area.

For more information

The AMP summit runs from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 20. Registration is $25.

Details are available at

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