Adele Mark, our Marketing and Communications Assistant at The Circle and former Pass It on Girl, spoke with Emma Phillips to hear about her experiences the past five years in the Pass It On Girls program. Emma has been a part of the Pass It On Girls program since Grade 8.
Why did you decide to join Pass It On?
In Grade 8, Kate came to the middle school, as she does, to talk with the eighth-grade girls about self-image and body confidence. During the session, all of us were crying and talking about our bodies. The experience was really intense but in a good way. I loved the connection that we fostered by being really vulnerable together. So, when Kate came back to the middle school to pitch Pass It On and said that it was more of that sort of thing, I thought to myself, “Oh, awesome, I have to do it!”
What did you first expect when you joined Pass It On? How did your experience compare to your expectations?
As an eighth-grade buddy, I expected Pass It On to be an opportunity to look up to older girls as role models and to connect in a group of women. My actual experience was pretty close to what I thought it would be and also a lot more. In Pass It On, we got to talk about important topics like sex and drugs. Hearing people closer to my age talk about these things was really important for me. It helped me realize that there wasn’t this big expectation going into high school that I had to go to parties. I learned that those kinds of things aren’t a huge part of high school for everybody. And it doesn’t make you any less worthy or cool if you don’t do it. When I joined Pass It On as a mentor in Grade 10, it was a totally different experience than being a buddy. The connection I felt with the other older girls in the group was so strong. I felt like I could talk about anything, without judgement. It is something that I need to have in high school because high school is kind of a weird place!
What is important to you or what are you interested in? And how does Pass It On fit into those interests?
Right now, my relationships are really important to me. And balancing my relationships with taking care of myself is also important. I try to avoid being codependent by making time for myself and thinking about what I need. Kate and the girls from Pass It On have really helped me with that. Starting the journey of taking care of myself has, in turn, helped me to help other people and help me grow stronger friendships and relationships.
What is your favourite thing about Pass It On?
I would probably have to say the connection between the girls. In the circle, I realized that all of us have insecurities. You have this idea in your head from the media that the pretty girls or the popular girls don’t have any insecurities or problems. But being in Pass It On has shown me that we are all pretty much the same when it comes to worrying about what people think of us. It makes you realize that you’re not the only one and you’re not alone.
And then there’s Kate. Kate is a mentor to me in my life. She is a professional but she still has the ability to have fun and to play. It is really important for me to see that as a young woman. That when you grow up, you don’t have to be so serious all the time. You can be successful, have fun in your job, play, and be an emotional person. She has also shown me that it is okay to not have my whole life figured out. And it’s okay to not really know what’s happening or where your life is going.
What is your least favourite thing?
That’s a hard question. I would probably say the buddies, which is weird because interacting with them, is also one of my favourite things! Once you see what it’s like to be with just the mentors, and you’re used to having that weekly connection, it breaks up the flow sometimes when something else is going on. When the buddies are there, it is a different dynamic. But I also love connecting with the younger girls and being able to let them know that high school isn’t as scary as they think it will be.
What is the most important thing you have learned about yourself in this program?
I think Pass It On has really shown me how to self-reflect and see what things in my life I want to change or improve. I have also learned that I am not alone. Others in the circle are going through the same things that I am. High school is a weird time, but we’re all going to get through it. Also, in my life, I have not struggled that much. Listening to other girls’ stories and how they’ve overcome challenges reassures me that I can get through anything; I just have to be optimistic and push through.
Have you learned any new skills in Pass It On?
I have learned communication skills and deeper thinking skills. I can think about difficult topics in a more open way. I try to challenge the things I might be close-minded to and really try to listen to others’ perspectives. When you do this, we’re all learning together. Learning together is important in the circle but also in life. That’s what our society is moving towards with movements like Black Lives Matter, LGBTQ rights, and the climate crisis. We’re all trying to listen, learn together, and get through it together. I think listening and learning from others is a skill that we can all work on.
What is special about Pass It On?
Everything! It’s such a brilliant program that hits so many points all at once. It is women coming together to talk and to learn together. But it’s not just a group of women. It’s also a mentorship with Kate. It’s learning lots of important skills with others. And, being able to help younger girls with their transition into high school. When I think back to myself in Grade eight, I didn’t know what the heck was going on! But being able to look up to the older girls in Pass It On and see that high school isn’t such a scary place, was very special. I wish that everyone could get to experience a program like this.
What is your favourite memory from Pass It On?
There are so many good ones! I love all the moments where we all cry together. It might sound a little weird, but the connection that happens when you’re being vulnerable with a group of people is so powerful. We’re all there for each other. It doesn’t feel like you’re alone in the circle or like you’re being watched like when you cry in public. It’s a safe place to be vulnerable and express your emotions. For example, one of my friends, who has always struggled with expressing emotions, recently joined Pass It On. After being in Pass It On for a little while, she can more easily express herself. It is so beautiful to watch that happen.
How do you think you have changed since your first day of Pass It On?
I have really grown to love myself a lot more. I’ve always been a confident person. But I’ve realized my confidence wasn’t always genuine. I acted confident, but I still wasn’t fully comfortable in my body. Through Pass It On, I have had the opportunity to listen to other girls’ stories and self-reflect, and self-improve. I have realized that this is my body. And this is what I’m going to be in for the rest of my life. So why not love it?
Would you recommend Pass It On to other girls?
Yes, I definitely would. It’s just so incredible. I feel like I am constantly telling people how much I love it and how much it has helped me. It opens your mind to many different perspectives and shows you different sides of yourself. And it’s also the program itself. Having a space for young people to be together and collaborate is important. It is so important for young women and young men to have their own spaces. I don’t see any reason why someone wouldn’t want to be a part of a program like this.
* * *
Promoting Healthy Relationships at The Circle
Here at The Circle, all of our programs are built around the core principles of SEL (Social and Emotional Learning) to work towards safer communities.
• We offer the Empathy Project for Grade 3, 4, and 5 students to provide them with the building blocks of social-emotional learning.
• For Grades 6, 7, and 8, the Respect Project offers students the opportunity to get to know one another better and learn about the foundational role respect plays in their lives.
• The Pass It On program is an after-school, cross-peer group mentorship program with intermediate students (as buddies) and high school students (as mentors). Its goal is to foster capacity for healthy relationships and support life transitions.
Our programs have successfully offered students a wide range of benefits of social-emotional education. After attending our programming, students have expressed a greater capacity to feel empathy for others, resolve conflict, and build equal and healthy relationships. Teachers observe students using their new skills in the classroom, and they request our programs year after year.
Learn more about our programs or request more information about how you can bring our programs to your classroom or organization.
Adele Mark is a third-year undergraduate student studying Sociology and Global Development Studies at the University of Victoria. She was involved in the Pass It On program in high school at Gulf Islands Secondary School and was hired as Marketing and Communications Assistant, a temporary student position in early 2021, at The Circle. Adele has been involved with several projects that focus on youth education and female empowerment and looks forward to continuing this work with The Circle.