Leading the way to a better community
Our longstanding partnership with YWCA continues with local after-school programs aimed at girls transitioning to high school.
Sensing a need for youth-based development programs in the growing Surrey area, the YWCA was looking for ways to expand their popular after-school youth programs. The “That’s Just Me” program was created to address the needs of grade seven girls to reduce violence against women by developing resilience, confidence, self-esteem and social responsibility as they move from elementary to high school.
“The program really encourages girls to assume responsibility for social and community issues. We encourage girls to have discussions and dialogue around topics that will help them make a smooth transition into high school,” said Elske Katz, Supervisor-Surrey, Youth Education Programs. “The second aspect of the program is developing and implementing a community service project in their local area.”
Students from each participating school developed and implemented a community service project tailored to their community. The students worked to revitalize a school garden, create a community event for pre-schoolers, visited a long-term senior care facility to assist its residents, and brought painting and art to a retirement home. By integrating youth, mentorship and community service into one program, the YWCA was able to help foster a safe environment for the girls to learn leadership skills, experience understanding with different generations and learn empathy for each group’s challenges.
Having been longstanding partners with the YWCA in our community since 2005, we supported the organization’s Leadership Program for Girls in Surrey with a $20,000 grant in 2012. This money made it possible for the program to get up and running and create roles for parental guides, volunteer opportunities for high school and post-university mentors that helped support 38 girls in its first spring. In total, YWCA has seen 242 grade seven girls and 80 volunteer mentors participate in the program across the city.
“Because the girls develop their own community service project in their local community, it’s really nice for them to recognise that they have leadership skills. We help them to develop these skills further through different activities, games and by planning their actual projects,” said Katz. “It’s an opportunity for them to look at what some of the challenges are in their neighbourhood and some of the ways they can contribute their skills.”
This project has a large impact in fast growing communities like Surrey and Cloverdale. Without the proper example set by after-school programs like this, high-school students are just as likely to be seen hanging around the local shopping mall. This program is all about showing girls that there are many ways to get involved in their local community and make a positive impact. The hope is that the girls who participate now will return as high school mentors in the future to share what they’ve learned with the next generation.
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