Adele Mark, our Education Outreach Program Coordinator at The Circle, interviewed Kai Nash and Ewan Holmes, two Grade 9 students who have been a part of the Pass It On Boys program since September 2020, to hear about their experience in the program.
Why did you decide to join Pass It On?
Ewan Holmes: One of my friends asked me to join him. I knew we would be able to hang out, so I thought, why not?
Kai Nash: For me, my mom’s a facilitator for The Circle. She said, “Kai, join Pass It On because you’re not doing anything anyway.” So, I said, Okay, sure!
What did you first expect when you joined? How did your experience compare to your expectations?
KN: I expected the program to be more serious with a focus on teaching young men skills. It actually turned out to be more about having thoughtful discussions that are relaxed and fun!
EH: When I was learning about the program, the facilitators put a lot of emphasis on board games and other sit-down activities. When I started the program, I learned that the program was really more about doing physical and mental activities and having thoughtful conversations.
What is important to you or what are you interested in? How does Pass It On fit into those interests?
KN: I like reading, playing video games, and playing board games. I like having fun and hanging out with friends. In the program, we have a lot of fun. We’ve played games, and I’ve made friends through this program. So, that fits into those interests.
EH: I also like reading and playing video games, and doing things outside, like dirt biking. In Pass It On, we do a lot of outdoor activities, and I enjoy that a lot. Being able to have somewhere to go and run around with your friends is so important. And being able to learn together, too. One of the facilitators is really into nature, and he teaches us about it.
What is your favourite thing about Pass It On?
EH: That’s a hard one, I really have a lot of fun! My favourite thing about it is probably the social environment that it creates. Especially with COVID-19 restrictions, we can’t hang out with our friends that much. So, getting that time every week has been helpful for my mental health and has been really fun.
KN: I like that it is a friendly get-together. There’s no pressure to do anything. And you feel like you can be yourself.
What is your least favourite thing about Pass It On?
EH: This isn’t necessarily a bad thing but sometimes it can get a little awkward when we talk about controversial topics like masculinity or women’s rights. We do an exercise where we’re randomly assigned to groups that are either for or against a certain topic and then we have to debate it. It gets awkward when you are assigned a side that is the opposite of how you really feel.
What is the most important thing you have learned about yourself in Pass It On?
KN: That if I give myself a chance, I am a lot more than I think I am. I used to think I was really shy or that I wasn’t good at making friends. Now, I’m not as shy as I was, and I’ve made friends. I thought that it was going to be hard for me to fit in, but it’s actually not very hard.
EH: For me, before Pass It On I didn’t think that I was capable of letting my emotions show. But within the group, it is accepted. I’ve learned that I can express myself without anybody judging me.
Have you learned any new skills in Pass It On? If so, what are they?
EH: I have learned to be a bit more sympathetic towards other people. That hasn’t ever been one of my strong suits in life, I will admit. When I hear others who have similar issues to me, I find myself being able to say, “Oh, I feel your pain.” Once you practise this on a weekly basis, it becomes natural. And I’ve also gotten better at Capture the Flag!
What is special about Pass It On?
EW: I think Pass It On is special because it is a combination of being relaxed and having structure. It is a balance that I’ve never really experienced in any other group. Usually, groups either have too much structure so that it is stuffy and uncomfortable, or it’s too relaxed that it becomes chaotic. The facilitators do a really good job of keeping that balance. They’re doing a great job to keep everything fun but also still getting us to learn some stuff.
KN: I agree, Pass It On is a place where you can go just to relax and hang out with your friends. No one expects anything of you.
AM: What is your favourite memory from Pass It On?
KN: Recently, we climbed up a mountain and took a group photo at the top, which was pretty fun.
EH: For me, I can’t really pin down one exact time. But there have been a couple of sessions that have been super fun the whole way through. I think the jokes and the funny situations that sometimes arise are probably my favourites. We have a couple of guys in our group that are really, really funny. They’ve made some pretty hilarious jokes that we’ve all laughed at for a long time. Also, we’ve had some Capture the Flag games, that have been so much fun.
How do you think you have changed since your first day of Pass It On?
KN: I would say I am more open. I have a bit more confidence than I did before. And I think it’s easier for me to talk to people.
EH: I have learned to show more sympathy for others and some other important social skills that I didn’t have before, like showing emotion. I’ve also become more comfortable spending time outside. I enjoy spending time outside, but I don’t do it very often. Being in Pass It On has helped me get back into it and has reminded me how much I used to love being outside when I was a kid before I got into video games.
Would you recommend Pass It On to someone who is interested in joining?
EH: I would 100% recommend Pass It On. I have already recommended it to a couple of my friends so they can share the fun. The program doesn’t demand a lot from you as school does. It’s more like you’re getting a lot out of it. You get to hang out, have fun, and learn some stuff. And that’s why I would recommend it to anybody who is interested in joining.
KN: I would also totally recommend it. It’s a nice little thing that we all do together. As I said before, it’s chill. It’s fun. There are almost no drawbacks to it.
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Promoting Healthy Relationships at The Circle
Here at The Circle, all of our programs are built around the core principles of SEL 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 the wide range of benefits of a social–emotional education. After attending our programming, students have expressed a greater capacity to feel empathy for others, to resolve conflict, and to build equal and healthy relationships. Teachers observe students using their new skills in the classroom, and they request our programs year after year.
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.