SUBMITTED BY SWOVA
SWOVA Community Development and Research Society is marking an exciting milestone this fall as the Pass It On mentorship program enters its 10th season in local schools.
Pass It On started in 2010 as an after-school program that provided structured and individual mentorship between high school youth and Grade 8 students throughout the academic year.
In the 10 years that the girls’ Pass It On has been going, approximately 400 young women have gone through the program — as mentors, as mentees, or sometimes as both. Kate Nash was hired as the program facilitator in 2010, after a four-month pilot of the program.
Ten years later, Nash is still with the program and a trusted, outspoken advocate for young women. She shares some of the program’s impact: “In the beginning of the year, girls come into the program with a lot of judgements: judgements they harbour about themselves and judgements they have about the other participants. There’s little-to-no trust. They’re not in their regular friend group. They’re the nerds, jocks, arts students, and so on. By sitting in circle week after week and having the opportunity to share openly and be heard, they develop a deep sense of trust for each other. That’s huge, life-changing stuff.”
Nash added that she’s “constantly connecting and reconnecting with the female participants as they become women, watching them grow into their leadership skills and continue on in life at school and in work, pursuing environmental issues, working with youth, and being caregivers within their community. By the end of the year, I have seen growth in confidence to some degree in all the participants.”
SWOVA now runs programs for girls and for boys (cis, trans, binary inclusive). The society is currently working with program facilitators to evolve and improve the program.
The impacts of the program are often gradual but with lasting effects. Students themselves attest to the transformative aspects of the year, claiming it helped with anything from stress, anxiety, self-confidence, abusive relationships, substance abuse and more.
One participant said, “I think that it just helps me learn to be a better person. It’s a time — after a whole school day of putting up a front — to sit in a group of people and peel off the masks and actually just have a genuine conversation without any sort of filter or agenda behind it. It’s super special to me because I get to connect.”