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The Power of Connection and Vulnerability in a Small Community: The Pass-It-On Program Celebrates 10 Years!

October 3, 2019

A blog post by Kate Nash

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SWOVA’s Girls Pass-It-On program started in 2010 as an after-school program that provided structured and individual mentorship between high school youth and Grade 8 students throughout the academic year.

Kate Nash was hired as the program facilitator in 2010 and has been in that role since. She reflects on these 10 years here.

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I began working for SWOVA in 2010. I was 28 years old and a mom of three. My youngest was a year old and the rest not much older. I was hired as the program facilitator of Pass-It-On. The program had run as a 4-month pilot a few years before and had recently acquired the funding it needed to run in four rural communities for a year.

I had had some experience and some education before having babies. The Executive Director, the Chair of the Board, and a youth conducted the interview. The youth had done a lot of SWOVA programming and was a facilitator for the R+R (Respectful Relationships) program. I didn’t have the experience the other candidates had, but, as the story goes, when I left the room, she said, “That’s the one the youth will trust.” She got me my job.

I do connect with youth. I am innocent, playful, and willing to be vulnerable. Youth can relate because, for the most part, they can’t help but be vulnerable. Their innocence is their guide, and adolescence is awkward. Society encourages us to tuck our values away, hide our vulnerability, and charge head first into the unknown. With all our emotions and feelings, it’s difficult to ever feel in control.

Confidence is built with experience, but it’s shaped by acceptance. When we feel safe enough to expose our weaknesses and vulnerabilities, and then we’re still accepted and even loved, our confidence grows and, with it, our level of care for ourselves and for others.

As Pass-It-On enters its 10th year, I know this to be true. Year after year, I sit with young women who join the program and who are nervous and fairly judgmental of themselves and others. By the end of the year, our diversity is more apparent. We truly know each other, and the acceptance of others and self is evident. By showing others who we are and safely exposing our vulnerabilities, we can all become more confident, vibrant people.

Because this program runs in a small community, I commonly run into past participants. True mentorship folds into our being and our actions over time, as we grow and reflect on the experiences and insights we’ve been given. I am gifted to see firsthand the effects that this program has had on over 400 young women over the last 10 years. When we treat each other as equals, sit down to listen and share with each other, and truly accept each other, the gifts we have to give back are twofold. Connection is as important to us as food, water, and shelter. My community is stronger because these young women chose to be vulnerable.

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High school mentors are already in place for 2019−2020. The program is now recruiting Grade 8 buddies interested in being a part of the program. The commitment is two Tuesdays a month, 3:30 to 6:30, starting in November. If interested, please contact Kate Nash (girls’ program) or David Norget (boys’ program).

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