Mentorship program for Surrey girls initiated by trio of high-school students will return (with gallery)

Published: January 18, 2013

LARISSA CAHUTE 
VANCOUVER DESI

Surrey mentorship program for girls

Kiran Mann, Livleen Pannu and Amneet Athwal stand in front of a collage their North Ridge Elementary School I AM workshop participants made in their last session. Submitted photo

Surrey Grade 12 student Kiran Mann wishes she had more support making the transition into high school.

“When I was in Grade 7 it was overwhelming,” the Ecole Panorama Ridge student told Vancouver Desi. “When you step into high school there’s so many cliques right away.”

Mann wanted to create a support system for young students so she, along with friends Amneet Athwal and Livleen Pannu started the “I AM” workshop (an after-school mentorship program for girls) in fall 2012.

“We wanted to be able to provide younger girls with an easier transition into high school … and unify the girls,” she said. “In elementary school you’re in the same class the whole day and when you get to high school it’s a much, much bigger environment.”

So every Friday in October and November, Mann, Athwal, Pannu and a team of volunteers met with about 40 Grade 5, 6 and 7 girls from North Ridge Elementary School. They hosted activities and discussed topics like nutrition, sports and fitness, maintaining and building friendships, exams, study habits, bullying and answered “any questions they had about high school.”

“In the program we try to get everyone together so it doesn’t matter who you were, what grade you were from – it’s a big group of girls and we just had a good time at each workshop, so we all learned something,” said Mann.

North Ridge Elementary principal Teresa Starr was “absolutely blown away” by the program.

“There’s not a lot of activities that the girls go to — there’s a lot of activities as far as the boys doing the soccer and the basketball camps, but there’s not as many activities for the girls,” Starr said. “The moms were very, very pleased to have this … it was so well received.”

Originally hoping for at least 20 girls to sign up for the program, nearly 40 out of 58 girls within the age group enrolled.

“In Grade 7 they get really nervous about transitioning,” said Starr. “There’s a definite need (for a support system) before they go into high school.”

As Starr supervised the seven-week program, she saw the young girls’ confidence blossom: Many expressed a desire to perform and present in front of their peers and the Grade 7’s were eager to prepare for high school.

“It’s so beneficial to our female community,” said Starr. “It’s a culture that puts a lot of emphasis on male and male role models and I think this really is allowing them to see some really positive female role models and want to be like these girls.”

Her students “begged” Mann, Athwal and Pannu to return in the spring, said Starr.

And fortunately, they will be back in March — and hopefully for the long haul.

On Wednesday, Mann, Athwal and Pannu met with the school board and discussed expanding the program throughout the South Surrey district and plans are already in place to mentor some girls from Fraser Heights to establish their own program.

Mann expects registration for North Ridge’s spring “I AM” workshop to roll out in February.

“I’ve kept the Friday slot open,” said Starr.

“I AM” workshop

Picture 1 of 4

Kiran Mann with an I AM workshop participant.

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