The Pass It On Program is an initiative that aims to empower and support adolescent girls by providing education and skill building to help them stay safe. The project has two key components. The first is to engage high school adolescent girls in a dialogue around the most pressing issues they face in today’s society. The second component involves a cross- age mentoring project that connects high school adolescent girls with middle school girls to provide them with support as they navigate the waters of middle school.

Senior high school young women are trained and supervised to be mentors for middle school girls and meet once a week through the length of the project. The main objective is to increase the capacity of young women and girls on Salt Spring Island in the areas of leadership, self-care, safety, and accessing community supports. To prepare the mentors, they receive training and meet bi-weekly. With increased skills in communication, problem solving and leadership, the older females are more able to facilitate helpful conversations and to form supportive relationships with their younger partners and assist with the transition to high school.

In a small island comunity, it is common that there are more intergenerational events (parties, dances) where mixed ages are in attendance. When children are young, they are often brought to community dances. This intermingling of the ages seems to continue well into the teens. Reinforcing this, it is very important for young women to feel comfortable connecting with those in an older age range and to be exposed to positive role models. Through knowing those of an older generation and being aware of their issues and how they think, such intergenerational relationships may de-stigmatize assumptions based on age and develop an understanding and appreciation of each other. Mentorship fosters a net of safety and confidentiality, so crucial in small communities.

Consequently, this year we have widened the circle for more group activities for both mentors and buddies, along with the inclusion of young professional women in the community to share their experiences and passions from time to time. The stories and journeys of these invited female guests have inspired passion, initiated dialogue, and offered options that the young teens had not yet considered. And the guests have all remarked on the openness and respect of the young mentors. This is intergenerational capacity building at its finest.

 by Kate Maurice – Pass It On Mentor/Supervisor

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