Two new after-school mentorship programs will be created at Bert Bowes and Dr. Kearney schools thanks to $13,000 in provincial funding.

School District 60 received the funds this week from the province’s School District Mentorship Grant Program, which was developed by the education and public safety ministries as part of the Erase strategy, an education-based anti-gang program.

Fifteen students from each school will be able to take part. Wade Hart, the school district’s director of instruction, says gang affiliation isn’t a particular concern for North Peace students, but wants to use the programs to offer mentorship to youth aged 12 to 18.

“Ultimately, it’s about what we can do to make things better for students and prevent that pathway to criminal activity or gang affiliation,” said Hart.

The province awarded $486,000 to 24 school districts on Tuesday. Specific details are still being determined for rollout of the programs at the two schools, but mentors will lead groups of students in a series of healthy activities after school for a couple of days a week.

Hart said the Erase program is an evolution of earlier programs created a decade ago in the Lower Mainland to curb gang violence.

“It was a real provincial effort to make schools safer, so, of course, related to that work is the realities of the Lower Mainland and school districts like Surrey, for example, that do have prevalent gang violence,” said Hart. “They do recognize education is a good avenue for early intervention to reach some of these students before they go too far down that pathway.”

“It’s an expansion of the program and still really good service to our students here in Fort St John,” said Hart. “Our primary concern is school completion and school graduation.”