Jennifer Quam is the Mentor Supervisor for the Pass It On Project in Valemount/ McBride, British Columbia. McBride has a population of 710 while 90 kilometers away is Valemount, with a population of 1100. The school population for both communities hovers around 100 students for grades 7-12. Hard economic times have taken its toll on both McBride and Valemount. The major industry for both communities had been logging and pulp mills. The mills are now shut in both communities which has resulted in many families having one parent commute to work in Alberta while the rest of the family remains in their home community. Tourism in Valemount and McBride is promoting snowmobiling in the winter as a way to stimulate the economy.
When determining how to entice young high school females to be mentors to younger girls, Jen really emphasized the vulnerabilities of younger students.
“I asked them to remember what it was like to enter high school; how scary and lonely it is sometimes.”
This resulted in the biggest draw being the idea of becoming a friend to a younger student.
It’s not surprising that the biggest challenge is the distance between the two communities. As cited from other communities, positive partnerships with and support from the host schools is key to the success of such a project. This has not been consistently evident in this situation, which contributed initially to lower numbers. Additionally, as is the case with any new program, trying to get the girls excited about something they don’t know anything about can also stall the enthusiasm and stunt the numbers.
And yet, the young female students never fail to inspire. One of the mentors watched her buddy engage in some illegal substances, while both were at a mutual friend’s house. This presented an ethical dilemma for this young mentor. Reflecting back on Jen’s suggestion to consider what it is like being a young middle school student, the mentor saw herself at the same age and wanted to help her buddy. In order to make a difference she is now committed to bridge the distance between them, by aligning their moral compass.
With stories like this, we know that Pass It On is making a difference in the lives of young girls and women in these two small communities. Thanks for planting the seeds of hope, Jen.
Chris Gay – Pass It On Coordinator