Pass It On group hosts Sparkfest

Year-end party and fundraiser set for May 9

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Performers are lined up and dessert menus are being finalized for Sparkfest, with the annual event hosted by Pass It On participants all set to return to Barb’s Bakery and Bistro on Thursday, May 9.

Now running for nine consecutive years, Sparkfest has been established as a fun way to celebrate an important initiative for youth in the community and to raise funds for the following year’s activities at the same time.

The SWOVA program sees high-school-age students meet weekly in peer groups with an adult facilitator to talk about anything they would like, from daily concerns to truly heavy issues. The students also act as mentors to little buddies in the middle school — usually Grade 8 students who will be moving up to high school themselves the next year.

The 2018-19 program marks the third year that boys have been included under the supervision of David Norget, while program founder Kate Nash has been running the girls’ group every year since 2009.

High school students involved with the program are looking forward to sharing their work with the community on May 9, with everyone invited to come out and support the program.

“I think the most important thing about Pass It On for me is it’s really brought together a community of the girls, and it kind of gives you a support group, almost. You get to go every week and relieve yourself,” said Grade 10 student Emma Phillips, who was a buddy when she was in Grade 8 and is now part of the mentor group. “And with the younger buddies it gives you that connection to maybe help them come into the high school.”

“It’s definitely an ease of transition,” agreed Grade 12 student Manny Wood Lynes-Ford. “For younger buddies it’s the transition between Grade 8 and high school, which is a pretty big jump. And then for us it’s going to be a jump to moving out of the house or living on our own.”

Healthy take-up of the program shows that many students find value in the relationship. There are currently between 15 and 20 partner-pairs from the girls’ side. The boy’s group, which is still in its early stages, attracted 10 high school mentors this year who are doing double duty with around 20 middle-school buddies. The pairs get together outside of regular meeting times and make their own plans. Often the mentors take their buddies out for lunch on a school day, and talk on the phone or text each other.

The older students are working on communication skills and building confidence as they prepare for a new future while being there for their younger counterparts. The younger group meanwhile gets familiar with the high school setting during fun group meetings and gets to know a few older students before the big move.

With all the good work of the past school-year coming to a close, the atmosphere at Sparkfest is definitely one of fun and celebration. As usual, Nash has used her connections to bring in professional entertainment from Vancouver. This year the program features music from Tom van Deursen, Ta’Kaiya Blaney and Chad Gilmour. There will also be performances from the GISS national champion improv team and Pass It On participants.

Tickets are available at the door, or for a discounted rate people can get them in advance from the students. The event starts at 7 p.m.

For more on this story, see the May 1, 2019 issue of the Gulf Islands Driftwood newspaper, or subscribe online.

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