UBC-based Melius Mentorship helps newcomer and refugee youth navigate Canada’s education system

The nonprofit organization in Vancouver offers workshops, one-on-one mentorship and free tutoring services.

Melius Mentorship

Credit: Melius Mentorship Network. Sharma (left) and Shah hosting a “Life After Secondary School” workshop at the SD36 Welcome Centre

The nonprofit organization in Vancouver offers workshops, one-on-one mentorship and free tutoring services

“I came here at the age of eight as an immigrant,” says Sohat Sharma, a fourth-year science student at UBC. “I was born in India but raised in Canada, and when it came time to apply to universities, I was quite lost.”

He recalls making a few mistakes: “I did a lot of my applications at the last minute, and on top of that, when it came to scholarships, everyone always tells you to apply to as many as you can—I did the opposite. I ended up applying for scholarships that have a really limited number of scholarships that they can give.” 

Sharma wasn’t alone. In a first-year chemistry lab he met Yaksh Shah, who also immigrated to Canada at eight years old and who also found the transition from high school to university particularly difficult. Without a network of close friends and family to share their experiences with, a large portion of immigrant youth are left to fend for themselves during the transition into higher studies. 

“Learning that, and struggling with that, just how difficult classes were, that was really eye opening to me,” Sharma remembers of going from North Surrey Secondary to UBC.

After a year of planning, he and Shah launched Melius Mentorship Network in 2021. The Vancouver-based nonprofit hosts workshops, offers one-on-one mentorship and free tutoring services to help newcomer and refugee youth navigate Canada’s post-secondary education system. All they need to do is fill out a Google form. 

The organization that started off with two co-founders and some friends now has a base of 30 volunteer mentors. It was also the recipient of UBC’s $1,500 Connect to Community grant, which was used to host four workshops for 100 youth in partnership with Surrey’s SD36 Welcome Centre.

In their talks, Shah and Sharma explained the difference between colleges and universities, broke down scholarships, bursaries and loans, and took interested students on a four-hour tour of the UBC campus. One workshop featured four speakers from immigrant/refugee backgrounds who detailed their own struggles navigating STEM careers and how they found success in their fields. 

A portion of the Connect to Community grant went towards applying for UBC’s $10,000 Chapman and Innovation grant. “We are planning six more workshops for newcomer youth,” says Sharma, who expects more than 80 people to participate. “UBC has such a multicultural student body, there’s so much diversity here. We have an opportunity to be able to give back to a lot of people.”