Levi First Charger (left) poses with Mayor of Calgary Naheed Nenshi
We sat down with Levi at a coffee shop to hear about his experiences as a mentor with our mentorship program (though he also recently became a member of our board!). Levi is from the Kainai Nation of the Blackfoot Confederacy and is a champion of Indigenous young people and the Indigenous community in Calgary. He is our featured mentor of the month!
Please tell us a bit about yourself.
My name is Levi First Charger I am the Operations Director/ Community Outreach Worker for the Urban Society for Aboriginal Youth, also known as USAY. We work with Indigenous youth from ages 13 to 29 years old. We focus on culture, education, mentorship, and living a healthy lifestyle and I’ve been helping out with Canada Bridges’ mentorship program for the past 3 years.
I have always been interested, well since I was younger, I’ve always been interested in the justice system. I always thought I’d be a police officer one day and join the SWAT team. I always knew that Indigenous youth and adults were highly represented in the justice and welfare systems, but to actually see that number in my textbooks and the PowerPoints at school, that changed me, something inside of me. I knew that I couldn’t help my Indigenous community the way I wanted to if I became a police officer so I changed my career goal from a police officer to a youth worker because I thought that would be the best way to help my Indigenous community.
How did you first get involved with Canada Bridges?
I first got connected with Canada Bridges about 3 years ago with Jennifer, she’s no longer with Canada Bridges but I got to meet Jennifer and she asked me to be part of the mentorship program and at the time I was starting up my own mentorship program at USAY so I thought it would be a good thing to work together on Canada Bridges’ mentorship and also with my own mentorship program at USAY. Ever since, we’ve been working together and I think it’s been a really good, positive working relationship because Canada Bridges and USAY have the same values, and values and traits that we want to work with youth – so that’s what I value so much working with Canada Bridges.
What are the best parts of being a mentor?
The best part about being a mentor…the best part about being a mentor towards Sammy is that when we first met, we’re both a little shy and kind of awkward, you know, but after we got to know each other we formed a relationship built on trust and we can talk really easily. We usually talk over Facebook, over phone when we can, and I like to meet up with Sammy as much as I can and help him out anyway I can. For example, I just gave Sammy a bus pass and some gift cards to Subway and Tim Hortons because I know money is a little tight being a student in school so I thought that would help him and he was really appreciative of that.
What is the best part of the mentorship program? The best part is hanging out with the other mentors and young leaders with the mentorship hangouts – I like doing that a lot because we get to see everyone, all the mentors and young leaders, and that’s the thing I like the most but I also like the one on one time that me and Sammy have, like just chilling, going around, we just sort of chill, talk about how our day is going, we talk about girls, relationships, stuff like that (laugh).
How would you describe your mentoring relationship with Sammy?
I think it’s pretty good. We both talk to each other, we talk to each other at least 5 times out of the 7 days of the week, just to make sure he’s doing okay, to see how he’s doing in school, if he needs any help, things like that. I also know that he needs a break from school sometimes so I take him out to dinner or we go out to a movie. We’re hoping to go to a Flames game in the next month or two, just to help him out. And I think from doing this stuff with Sammy, getting him out into community and taking him to events and movies and stuff like that, it’s strengthened our relationship because when I say I’m going to do something with Sammy I try to keep my promise to him and, doing that, I think he can trust me, knowing that I can be there when he needs me.
What do you most appreciate about Sammy?
I appreciate his laughter, his sense of humour. I really appreciate that he’s really active and likes playing sports and stuff. I can relate to that and that’s also another easy way for us to connect because he likes sports, I like sports. He likes hockey, I like hockey.
What do you see as Sammy’s strengths? What have you done to encourage these?
Sammy’s strengths are, like I said, his sense of humour. He likes to laugh. He’s a little shy when you first meet him but once you get to know him, he breaks out of his shell, and I always encourage him to, “don’t be shy, keep doing good in school.” I say, “don’t let shyness…sometimes shy people miss opportunities.” I say, “don’t be shy because I was shy growing up and I missed opportunities as well”, and I don’t want him to go through the same thing, feeling of regret and things like that, just because he was shy, yeah.
What kind of advice would you give to other mentors?
My other advice to mentors is just keep that open communication with the young leader. They might not reply to you all the time, or right away, but just keep saying hi, let them know because if you’re constantly real to them they realize that you are real, you’re a for real mentor and you want to be there. And so, plan some outings. Sammy and me always plan stuff together but I usually make him take the lead on it because I want to do stuff that Sammy wants to do. And keep your promises when you say you’re going to hang out with a youth, keep your promise and go meet the youth. I’m sure there are some circumstances that come up, like a family emergency and stuff but besides that, just keep your promise. You will see – if you keep your promises to the youth – your relationship will grow much further and you guys can do much more out in the community together – you can help, you’ll help each other grow.
Anything else you’d like to share?
How about some of the challenges? One of the challenges being a mentor is sometimes my work schedule and Sammy’s school schedule doesn’t really add up. Because I know he’s very into school and right now it’s like finals and papers and assignments are all due before Christmas break, right? So this week he wanted to hang out but because he has so much assignments and stuff to do, which I know, I told him not to hangout because school is important. But yeah school conflict and work conflict - scheduling can be hard. But besides that, everything is going good and I hope Sammy likes me (laugh).
We are really grateful for Levi’s support of our organization and the positivity and dedication he brings to our programming! We wish him all the best in 2019.