Edmonton high school student creates online resource for Black parents

Courtesy: University of Alberta, Health and Immigration Policies and Practices

A 16-year-old Archbishop MacDonald High School student has put together an informative resource guide for Black parents in Edmonton alongside two mentors from the University of Alberta.

Anjola Oyelami is in Grade 11 and in September took part in the Black Youth Mentorship Program at the U of A.

Through this program, Oyelami was assigned to create a 24-page document called the Black Parent Resource Guide. It’s considered a valuable tool for families that includes up-to-date links to supports like legal services, childcare and recreation in the community.

Oyelami told CTV News Edmonton there are “many different resources to aid Black parents, whether they’re coming to Canada for the first time or if they’ve been here for however many years.

“It makes it a lot easier for the parent to have all the resources there in that one document.”

According to Oyelami, she started working on the document in October and completed it in February. However, she said U of A associate professor Bukola Salami saw there was a need for it in 2017 after conducting community research.

Salami told CTV News Black immigrants identified accessing services as one of the biggest barriers they faced in Edmonton. She said there was a knowledge gap for families of knowing what’s available out there and how to navigate it.

“One of the needs that this resource guide will meet is really meeting the knowledge gap,” she said.

When drafting the guide Salami told Oyelami to “think about yourself as a Black youth. What would you like to know if you had a resource?”

The resource guide is just the first step. Salami said while the guide will remain on the U of A website for the foreseeable future, the long-term goal is to create a standalone site. After that is complete, she wants to develop a peer-to-peer support group for Black parents.

“We are going to have another youth this summer expand on the guide to make it Alberta wide,” Salami added.

Through the mentorship program, Salami told CTV News “it’s very interesting how much you can discover when you capitalize on some of the strengths of our youths.

“It was really helpful to have that insight and knowledge in our back pockets,” Oyelami added. “This was a great way for me to put in my two cents.”

According to Salami, having a good supervisor and mentor is vital in assisting impressionable youths succeed. She added it’s all about “seeing things from the lens of a youth.”

“A lot of times, especially Black youths, they are often seen from a deficit perspective in terms of you have this weakness, you have that weakness, and that’s when it constrains you,” she said.

Engaging young people was something Salami really stressed the importance of, building their self-esteem and giving them the room to shine.

“The more we engage them in some of the work like this to put your works and your talents into good use and into productive youth, then we are actually able to build a much more inclusive and vibrant community.”

Oyelami told CTV News she plans to focus on school for now and start prepping for post-secondary. But, she hasn’t written off further community engagement.

“If I happen to find another way I can help the community or anyone, then I would definitely love to do that,” she said.

“We need to be there for one-another.”