"Indigenous Friends" social networking app gets Trillium Grant to expand

A recently developed social media app to support Indigenous students in post-secondary education was covered in a story on the CBC.

The Indigenous Friends app, designed to connect and support post-secondary Indigenous youth, has received an Ontario Trillium grant of $210,000 to expand its network capacity.

The Hon. Michael J. Coteau, Minister of Children and Youth Services, announced the funding for the Youth Opportunities Fund project today in Toronto.  “Local groups best understand the unique needs of youth in their communities and the kinds of support they need most. That's why our government has partnered with these grassroots organizations to offer new opportunities for youth to build the connections, communities and skills they need to achieve success in their interpersonal relationships, at school and in their careers,” said Coteau.

Ruth Koleszar-Green, an assistant professor of Social Work and vice-president of the Indigenous Friends Association, met the application's architect, Alejandro Mayoral-Banos in his first month at York, working towards his master's degree.

"He was having culture shock and as an Indigenous person I said, 'well I'll connect you to Indigenous students,'" she said.

The idea for the community-building application grew from a conversation about how the university could better support Indigenous students. Over three years, a team of Indigenous and non-Indigenous students and staff worked together to develop the Indigenous Friends application.

While Mayoral-Banos has written all the coding for the application, his goal is to give it back to the Indigenous communities and the students to be the voices for the people. "This is a community-based app, it's the community that holds intellectual property rights of the app," said Mayoral-Banos. "It's not my app, it's not Ruth's app, it's the community's app."

Learn about the Indigenous Friends app, read more about the funding announcement and the full story on the CBC.

Prof. Ruth Koleszar-Green, left, introduced Alejandro Mayoral-Banos, right, to the Indigenous community at York in his first month of being in Canada to pursue his master's degree. (Photo from Alejandro Mayoral-Banos)