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Culturally Relevant Mentoring Benefits Native Youth

Native youth are disproportionately affected by a range of negative health outcomes including poor emotional and psychosocial well-being. At the same time, there is increasing awareness of culturally-specific protective factors for these youth, such as cultural connectedness and identity. However, there has been an important shift away from the focus on perceived individual deficits towards strengths-based research identifying protective factors that promote resiliency among these youth who as a group experience such disproportionate risk.

Cultural connectedness has emerged as a culturally specific protective factor, whereby a strong, positive sense of cultural identity is associated with a number of indicators of well-being and positive functioning (Snowshoe, Crooks, Tremblay, Craig, & Hinson, 2015); cultural connectedness may function in part by helping to guard against discrimination (Whitbeck, McMorris, Hoyt, Stubben, & Lafromboise, 2002). Cultural connectedness may also be an important buffer against the heightened rates of suicide observed in many FNMI communities (Chandler, Lalonde, Sokol, & Hallett, 2003).

A recent study prompting program recommendations from working professionals working with Native youth highlighted a specific focus on programs that are culturally appropriate, enabling and empowering, and sustainable (June, Landais, Kolahdooz, & Sharm, 2015). Further, building strength and resiliency among Native youth has the added benefit of potentially decreasing risk behaviors. One such program centers on culturally based mentoring. Culturally-relevant mentoring for Native youth of sufficient duration has the potential to increase well-being, as indexed by positive mental health and cultural identity, and demonstrated that these effects may be related to intrapersonal and interpersonal growth, as well as learning about healthy relationships and culture. (Claire V. Crooks, Dawn Burleigh, Angela Snowshoe, Andrea Lapp, Ray Hughes & Ashley Sisco (2015) A case study of culturally relevant school-based programming for First Nations youth: improved relationships, confidence and leadership, and school success, Advances in School Mental Health Promotion, 8:4, 216-230, DOI).

IINII uses a revolutionary Design Thinking process to help your school community gain an understanding of one’s sense of self, as well as developing an understanding of students’ and parents’ values; having an understanding of one’s values matters because research has shown that it is linked to better well-being, less stress, and increased confidence in one’s ability to succeed.

Understanding students’ values can be developed with culturally sustaining practices that reflect a student’s identity and experience. Particularly helpful is focusing efforts on cultural competence and relevance and providing opportunities for students to practice bridging differences between diverse identities in a safe environment. To learn how you can create a dynamic youth-centered environment that honors the unique values of your students and parents, visit our website at, or contact us at or 1800-507-2502.

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