Young professionals help teenage Filipino Canadians achieve their potential

Rene-John Nicolas, Maureen Mendoza, and Michael Infante created a mentorship program called KAMP

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      Eight years ago, a group of UBC undergraduates met with Filipino high-school students from immigrant families.

      It was the first of the weekly tutoring and mentoring sessions to be delivered by the Kababayan Academic Mentorship Program (KAMP) at Sir Charles Tupper secondary school in East Vancouver. (Kababayan is a Tagalog word for “townmate”, a term of endearment among immigrant Filipinos.)

      KAMP was cofounded by Rene-John Nicolas, now a lawyer. It was an initiative of the Kababayan UBC, a Filipino students’ association at that university. Aimed at helping Filipino teens, the program includes academic tutoring, support in learning English, and personal development.

      Since its first session in 2008 at Tupper, and briefly at John Oliver secondary, KAMP’s network of mentors has grown to include postsecondary students from SFU, Kwantlen Polytechnic University, and Langara College. Mentors act as kuya (elder brother) and ate (elder sister) to teens.

      According to Nicolas, KAMP may soon be able to serve more students in the city, in cooperation with the school board’s Engaged Immigrant Youth program and Joy Jose, a multicultural liaison worker with the school district.

      “We’re hoping to deliver KAMP programming districtwide,” Nicolas told the Straight by phone.

      Maureen Mendoza, then a student of urban planning, helped set up KAMP. In August 2015, she and Nicolas married. They continue to grow the program.

      “At its heart, our group wanted to give back to our community, address educational issues, and improve educational outcomes,” Nicolas said.

      Michael Infante, now an accountant, cofounded KAMP. Like the Nicolas couple, Infante was born in the mid-1980s.

      Through KAMP, Filipino high-school students become more aware of the opportunities for them in Canada, according to Infante. “The kids will take in a lot of different things from the academic portion,” Infante told the Straight by phone, “whether that’s study-planning, career-planning, but also a lot of the more intangible aspects of things, such as learning to think outside the box, challenging themselves, being aware of the situation that they’re in, and finding pragmatic solutions on how to resolve challenges.”