BMO and Government of Ontario contribute to Big Steps to Success program with $5 million investment
With the help of a donation from BMO and Government of Ontario, Children’s Aid Foundation of Canada and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada are launching Big Steps to Success, a new national mentorship program aimed at improving educational outcomes for young people involved with the child welfare system.
Big Steps to Success is available in Victoria, Saskatoon, Toronto and North Bay for children and youth in care aged 7 to 14, a critical early intervention window when young people are more likely to be receptive to adult mentors and experience long-term academic benefits. Mentoring will take place at school, in the community, and in cases where it is not possible due to COVID-19 restrictions, adaptations will be made to allow mentors and mentees to meet virtually. Youth will be referred to the program by the local child welfare agency or social worker overseeing their care.
Children and youth living in government care often lack unconditional love or support of a consistent positive adult role model. This significant gap can have dire consequences on their confidence, self-worth, education and ability to move forward in their lives as adults. Without a high school diploma and consistent guidance, young people involved in the child welfare system can face a lifetime of underemployment, low income and lost potential.
Research has shown that the involvement of a trusted and positive mentor can promote social and academic success in young people involved with the child welfare system. Creating access to nurturing adult mentors can help young people engage academically and allow them to stay on track so that they can graduate from high school, one of the most critical predictors of their future success.
This collaborative approach to helping young people at-risk is made possible through a $2.5 million gift from BMO Financial Group to provide mentorship opportunities for children and youth nationally and through a $2.2 million investment from the Government of Ontario to implement the program in the province, with a focus on reaching Indigenous communities. Big Steps to Success will also receive an additional $300,000 in funding, donated by BridgeGreen Fund.
“This first-of-its-kind mentorship program is a high impact way we can remove barriers to social and economic inclusion, close the achievement gap and support better futures for one of society’s most vulnerable groups,” said Darryl White, Chief Executive Officer, BMO Financial Group. “At BMO, we’re committed to Growing the Good in business and life, and we’re proud to invest alongside our charitable and government partners in collaborative approaches that build strong communities.”