Growing up in the small northern town of Fort Nelson, British Columbia, has made 17-year-old Xzander McKay resourceful and self-sufficient.
“I’ve learned a decent amount about making do with what’s available,” said Xzander. “Like, while I was waiting for this meeting, I put up a shelf and reckon that’s not something a lot of people would just end up doing.”
But thanks to the Rural eMentoring British Columbia (ReMBC), an initiative part of the Rural Education Action Plan (REAP) program, Xzander is getting some extra help in planning his education and career path to set himself up for success.
ReMBC is a free online mentoring program funded by the Joint Standing Committee on Rural Issues. It prepares Indigenous and non-Indigenous high school students in rural and remote communities throughout British Columbia for life after high school by pairing them with a post-secondary student mentor with similar interests, goals and experiences.
“Just by a numbers game, there aren’t as many diverse careers represented in smaller rural communities, and the nearest post-secondary school might be far away, making it hard for rural high school students to make connections and know what opportunities exist beyond their communities,” explains Juliet Oshiro, ReMBC coordinator. “Bringing in mentors from the outside can help broaden students’ horizons, show them what’s out there, and ease their transition to post-secondary and into their chosen careers.”
Bringing in mentors from the outside can help broaden students’ horizons, show them what’s out there, and ease their transition to post-secondary and into their chosen careers.Juliet Oshiro, ReMBC coordinator
Many ReMBC mentors are originally from rural communities in British Columbia and, like Xzander’s former mentor, Katie Neale, a biochemistry and anthropology graduate of McGill University, now studying medicine at the University of Limerick in Ireland, enjoy passing on the wisdom and courage it took to pursue their dreams.
“Just being able to establish connections that might not be as accessible in rural communities is beneficial,” said Katie. “I think just being able to talk to someone who has a different experience, or maybe has had an experience that you’re wanting to have in the future, is really important. And having that one-on-one kind of connection just improves the experience, knowledge and fun.”
ReMBC can be accessed by individual rural students, or integrated into a variety of classroom settings. For Xzander, the program was offered as part of his Grade 10 Careers class. After being matched, he and Katie corresponded online for several months through the ReMBC portal, MentorCity. Together, they worked through ReMBC’s 12-module curriculum, discussing videos, articles and activities in the curriculum. By talking about post-secondary life, career direction and basic adulting, Katie provided Xzander with the support and guidance he needed to make informed decisions about his future.
“Having a mentor has been invaluable,” says Xzander. “Because of Katie’s experience in university and being able to ask her about that, it did really help me figure out if I would like the university experience and what I would actually get from that. It did help me think about all the things I could be learning other than what I just kind of thought up one day in fifth grade and stuck with for five years.”
So what’s next for Xzander? After wrapping up high school, he plans to take a gap year to earn some money to study a trade with the goal of, one day, becoming an electrical engineer. But with his horizons broadened, thanks, in part to his mentor, Katie, and ReMBC, he hopes to study other subjects, like paleontology, biology and anthropology.
“I just like learning,” he said.
I think just being able to talk to someone who has a different experience, or maybe has had an experience that you’re wanting to have in the future, is really important. And having that one-on-one kind of connection just improves the experience, knowledge and fun.Katie Neale, medical student and Xzander’s former mentor
About Rural eMentoring British Columbia
The Rural eMentoring British Columbia helps rural high school students prepare for their future with the support and advice of a post-secondary student mentor. Visit the Rural eMentoring British Columbia website to learn more about the program.