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‘It is Important to Talk about Consent’

March 7, 2023

The Circle Education’s Pass it On Girls Program has been running for more than ten years. Facilitator Kate Nash has created a safe space where young girls talk about topics like identity, body image, relationships and consent. The program helped Mia Oliveira (now 19) through a challenging time when she was in high school. Her mom Kirsty Smythe looks back at that time and shares what the program did for both of them.  

Pass it On is an after-school cross-peer mentorship program that supports self-awareness and healthy relationships. Mia joined Pass it On in Middle School as a little buddy. “Her teacher had introduced the program to her, she joined a session, and when she came home she said ‘this is what I am going to do,” Kirsty looks back at that time. “I don’t think I’d heard of the program before, but when Mia explained what it was, I thought it was a great idea. It was just before Mia transitioned to high school, which is never easy, and her father and I’d just divorced. It was a difficult time for her.”

The little buddies and their mentors, girls in grades 11 and 12, met regularly after school. “Mia had a fantastic big buddy, Sophie. They got along really well. They hung out together and she took Mia out for hikes. It was really wonderful. I think that was a big part of why Mia stayed in the program until she graduated. She understood how important it was what Sophie had done for her and enjoyed being a mentor herself for younger girls.”

Pass it On was a safe space for Mia to talk about things that were happening in her life. “Mia and I have open conversations, but as much as we parents want to know it all, there are things that they just don’t want to talk about. So, I would say that a big part of the benefit of Pass it On, was actually Kate. She was a big person in Mia’s life during high school. I think we’re lucky if we hear about 70 percent of the things that are going on in our kids’ lives. It is pretty nice to have somebody, who is older and has some life experience, who gets the other 30 percent. Kate’s support was essential to Mia through her high school years. When there were issues that Mia couldn’t or wouldn’t discuss with me, she had Kate.”

During the Pass it On sessions, everyone gathers in a circle. In a circle, everyone is equal, able to look one another in the eye and listen fully. “Throughout high school, if Mia or her friends encountered harmful behaviors, The Pass it On circle provided a safe place for them to work through their feelings. If an incident had further-reaching repercussions, Kate and the Pass it On group provided space for venting, support, reconciliation and healing.”

Conversations in Pass it On include consent and healthy relations. “An awareness of consent, setting firm boundaries, curiosity, and self-inquiry regarding what a healthy relationship consists of, were all subjects that Pass it On raised. It is important to talk about consent. Not only about sex, but also other parts of your life.”

Mia graduated in 2021 and is now at Quest University in Squamish. While navigating life at university, she still benefits from the skills she learned while being in Pass it On. “Mia’s emotional maturity was aided by having a group like Pass it On,” Kirsty continues. She gives an example of Mia sitting with a group of friends at university, most of them male, and asking them: ‘Do you think that as a young male, you get enough physical affection in your day-to-day life?’ “How many 19-year-old think like that?” says Kirsty with a smile. “I think it is woven into her tapestry by Pass it On.”

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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 (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 contact us at [email protected] to see how you can bring our programs to your classroom or organization.

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