“It’s taught me to believe in my dreams,” says one young participant in the Girlfriends program offered by the by the Environment Network in Collingwood, ON.
Girlfriends and The Crew are companion after school programs for grade 7 and 8 students. The programs are hands on and active in nature, with volunteer mentors and guest professionals from the community providing positive leadership and serving as role models.
The aim is to develop the self-esteem of young women and men, and to inspire and empower them.
“We want to encourage them to have choice and most importantly to be confident in the choices they make,” says Stephanie Hardy, Program Coordinator of the Environment Network.
“These programs provide young people with a space to be true to who they are, to learn, to laugh and to understand other points of view. Mostly we expect these young people to walk away standing a little taller and feeling self-assured,” Stephanie says.
The young women and men who participate in Girlfriends and The Crew have only good things to say about the programs. “It’s a safe environment and you can say what you want,” says one. “I care more about myself and I don’t take myself for granted,” says another. “[Girlfriends] has changed most of the girls I know into better people,” says a third.
Inspired by comments like these, the Environment Network is reaching out to find more schools to share messages of empowerment.
Self-improvement is a focus. Participants are given the tools to help improve their nutrition, physical activity, self-esteem, environmental awareness, and relationships. This comes in the form of healthy snacks and nutrition tips, accessible fitness activities, as well as respectful and supportive discussions. The goal is to not only improve health in the short term, but also provide lifelong change.
For more info on Girlfriends and The Crew, or to help in any way, please visit www.environmentnetwork.org for more information.