SWOVA is looking to continue its Pass It On mentorship program for Gulf Islands boys in 2017-18 as a successful pilot year uniting high school mentors with middle school buddies winds up.
While Pass It On was intended from the start to run parallel groups for males and females, funding constraints have meant the program has been delivered primarily to girls and young women for the past seven years. David Norget, who coordinated the cis-, trans-and non-binary inclusive boys’ group for SWOVA over the past school year, says the preliminary results confirm the benefits of such programming.
“There has been a recognized need to support girls and young women for some time, but there is more recognition from funding agents that the need to support boys and young men is also important to feminism,” Norget observed. “The deeper understanding is this is supporting community, and actually both components are really vital.”
SWOVA helps youth identify and move beyond gender and other types of stereotypes in the Respectful Relationship program, with a set of workshops for all students in grades 7 and 8. Pass It On builds on this knowledge base but goes deeper toward establishing an environment of trust and caring between individuals and as a community.
The Pass It On model has been developed over eight years by SWOVA with Kate Nash, coordinator of the girls’ program. Mentors attending senior grades at Gulf Islands Secondary School are trained and paired with younger buddies at Salt Spring Middle School and meet regularly over the course of the school year, both in self-determined casual situations and in group sessions where issues are discussed in circle. The idea is to help younger students gain confidence and make connections before entering high school, and also facilitate their engagement with some serious ideas.
“Really this is about building relationship skills in kids. It’s not something that happens overnight,” Norget said. “There’s great value in weekly continuity — it builds skills in a different way. And the model of Pass It On has been great for that.”
Norget said there is also great benefit to having a mentor from one’s own gender identification to help discuss sensitive topics.