Skip to main content

Community Living program benefits both mentors and students

A program run by Community Living Ontario that matches students with mentors to help further their education is expanding to the Sudbury region. (Photos courtesy of Community Living Ontario) A program run by Community Living Ontario that matches students with mentors to help further their education is expanding to the Sudbury region. (Photos courtesy of Community Living Ontario)
Share

A program run by Community Living Ontario that matches students with mentors to help further their education is expanding to the Sudbury region.

The program, Student Links Mentoring, matches students with a passion or interest in a particular field with mentors or experts who share that same passion.

Chris Beirness, 21, said his mentor Eugene Audette is a father figure. Beirness and Audette meet every week in Audette’s shop.

“He's been teaching me so much. Like when I first started, all I knew were hammers, nails, drills and screws,” Beirness said.

“I never knew how to use chisels or files or anything like that.”

Beirness has been under Audette’s wing for the last four years.

“It doesn't matter what subject it is, he wants to learn,” Audette said.

A program run by Community Living Ontario that matches students with mentors to help further their education is expanding to the Sudbury region. (Photos courtesy of Community Living Ontario)

Over the years, they’ve built things from Beirness’ favourite video game and movie franchises.

“We are working on the master sword from The Legend of Zelda and the pirate ship from the Black Pearl from Pirates of the Caribbean,” he said.

Student Links is funded by the Ontario government’s Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services. It pairs students ages 14-21 who identify as having an intellectual disability or are on the autism spectrum with mentors in their community who share a common passion.

“We find that students we support often don't have access or opportunities to things like co-ops and placements or maybe even summer jobs throughout the time that they are in high school,” said Community Living Ontario Student Links manager Meghan Davis.

“The goal is to support the natural development of relationships and connections to their community.”

Areas of study include fine arts, horticulture, fashion design and coding. In Beirness’ case, he loves building things. Audette has been teaching him woodworking, welding and metal fabrication.

'Chris is a joy'

“Chris is a joy. I'm very fortunate that I did get introduced to the Student Links mentorship program because it's fulfilling for me,” Audette said.

At the end of the program, Davis said students can find community placements, job opportunities or post-secondary programs they would be interested in.

“When they're connecting with people that have that shared interest, they really thrive. So many things are possible,” she said.

Beirness dreams of one day opening a woodworking business to build affordable, wooden toys for kids.

Student Links has been running in North Bay for approximately 10 years. It’s now expanding to the Sudbury region. Davis said the door is always open for further program expansions to other cities down the line.

“We're always open to potentially expanding more when there is that need,” she said.

The mentorship program currently serves about 250 students across the province in eight different regions.

To learn more about the program, click here.

CTVNews.ca Top Stories

Montreal-area high school students protest 'sexist' dress code

Approximately 50 Montreal-area students — the vast majority of them female — were suspended Wednesday after their school deemed the shorts they were wearing were too short. On Thursday, several students staged a walk-out to protest what they believe is a "sexist" dress code that unfairly targets girls.

Stay Connected