Getting involved with The Circle’s Pass It On program was the most meaningful thing I did in high school.
When I first started, Pass It On seemed like just a cool-girl group that met once a week to chat about what was going on in our lives and eat yummy snacks. But when I started my summer job as the Communications and Marketing Assistant at The Circle, I began looking back at my time as a mentor in the Pass It On program at Gulf Islands Secondary School with a fresh perspective.
What I didn’t know was that I was receiving a social-emotional education. When I was researching and writing about the benefits of social-emotional development, I began to realize the deliberate effort of facilitators to encourage mentors and mentees to develop the core competencies that social-emotional learning has to offer.
Pass It On was so much more than just a girl group. It was a place where I learned how to be the best version of myself with social-emotional education as the vehicle.
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How did I End Up as a Pass It On Mentor?
I arrived at Gulf Islands Secondary in Grade 10 as the new kid from Los Angeles, California. I know what you are thinking: what a culture SHOCK! I was out of my comfort zone and didn’t know anybody in my new community. And, like most new kids, I was worried about making new friends, fitting in, and making the most out of a new experience.
In the first week, my only new friend dragged me to an all-girls afterschool meeting called Pass It On. I didn’t know it yet, but over the next two years in the Pass It On circle, I would develop the best parts of myself, experience true solidarity and connection, and realize what it feels like to find my own empowerment and to help someone else to find it, too.
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The 4 Biggest Things I Didn’t Know I Was Learning
1. Empathy and How to Support Others
One of the most important parts of the Pass It On program is the pairing of high school “mentors” with Grade 8 “buddies.” Mentors meet and communicate frequently with their little buddy throughout the year to support them in their transition from middle school to high school. At first, I remember my pompous 15-year-old brain thinking how great of an opportunity it was for a middle schooler to learn the ropes from a cool high schooler like me!
However, I quickly realized that this relationship was so much more. The transition from middle school to high school is a vulnerable milestone. Many buddies are dealing with family issues, difficulty connecting socially, and mental health problems. Through the relationship I built with my buddy, I learned how to take a step inside someone else’s world. To lead with empathy and respect in my communication style. And how to simply just be there for someone, rain or shine.
2. How to Be Vulnerable and Seek Support from Others
I also learned how to seek support from others in the circle. Each week, the Pass It On mentors met for about two hours. During this time, we shared with one another what is going on in our lives, responded to discussion questions from the facilitator, and most importantly, listened to what others have to say.
The conversations we had in the circle were deep, vulnerable, and thought-provoking. What I didn’t know was that sharing in this circle taught me how to be vulnerable with others. I realized that it was okay to have feelings and that expression can be empowering, relieving, and healing. I became more comfortable crying in front of others and trusted my peers to hold space for me.
3. The Beauty of Solidarity
My involvement with Pass It On showed me the beauty of solidarity. Solidarity in its most common understanding is unity between people based off common interests or traits.
The solidarity I felt in the circle was so much more than that. It went beyond the fact that we all identified as women (cis, trans, and non-binary inclusive). We felt solidarity with one another because we learned to have mutual love and respect for our beautiful differences. Our conversations were powerful because each member was committed to treating others with kindness, respect, and empathy — even when we disagreed.
4. Self-Confidence and Finding My Own Voice
Perhaps the most impactful thing I didn’t know I learned in Pass It On was how to speak my truth. My whole life, I had struggled with being confident in my abilities and believing that what I have to say is valuable.
My first few months in Pass It On, I was a nervous wreck! Every time I would share, I practised my response over and over in my head. When it was finally my turn, my face turned bright red, and I couldn’t get through more than a few sentences before I completely shut down.
Years of living as a young woman had taught me to be silent, appeasing, and unopinionated. I was in awe of the confidence that the facilitators and other mentors had when sharing in the circle. Over time, the love and support I received from others in the circle slowly melted away the confining box that society had built around me.
Meeting after meeting, I began to build my self-confidence. I became inspired by my own self-worth. I became empowered to share exactly what I was thinking. And I trusted in myself that what I had to say was important.
Social Emotional Learning on a Day-to-Day Basis
Teaching youth how to use their voice, and that their voice is important, is one of the greatest gifts that The Circle has to offer. Finding my voice has helped me to become the strong, vulnerable, and outspoken person I am today. Especially as a young woman, learning how to speak my truth has helped me to advocate for myself and others in unfair, unjust, and unsafe situations.
I continue to use the other social-emotional skills that I learned in the Pass It On circle on a daily basis, whether I’m supporting a friend, practising self-care during the pandemic, or even finding my own voice in a blog post for a new job!
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Our SEL Programs
At The Circle, all of our youth development programs are built around the core principles of SEL to foster all of the benefits that a social–emotional education has to offer.
- 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 with the wide range of benefits of a social–emotional education. 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.