A healthy slice of $5 million in provincial Violence Free BC funding is coming to boost a local program for Grade 7 students.
The Cariboo Family Enrichment Centre (CFEC), Interior Health, 100 Mile House Elementary School and other community partners will work together to host workshops during the first week of June.
CFEC program manager Chris Pettman says the $6,000 local grant will fund an annual program offering Turning Beauty Inside Out and Turning Masculinity Inside Out workshops this year.
The female students will learn skills and gain empowerment to stand up to violence at school, at home and online, he explains.
Pettman says the male students will explore masculinity in the 21st Century and their progressing roles in a changing society.
Facilitators for both groups challenge common media messages about women and girls, or about boys and men, he adds.
Guest speakers include School District #27 teacher-counsellor Cheryl Christianson and David Hatfield, M.Ed. in Social Ecology, of Vancouver.
With the declining enrolment across SD27, Pettman notes there are about 90 Grade 7 students participating this year from the six South End schools, compared to 120 last year and 150 in 2013.
Pettman says he follows up with the administration at the elementary schools every year.
“Generally the principals are really receptive to having their students attend this. They really enjoy what they glean from the program.
“Administrators say … even people who don’t normally talk about these things come back to school and have this knowledge and want to share it.”
Pettman says the program is important to offer locally due to the lack of rites of passage for young people in today’s world that were deeply ensconced in many past cultures.
“This is designed [for] leaving childhood behind and going into that next phase of a teenager or youth, so that’s a nice transition because they are also at the end of Grade 7 in the elementary schools….”
The key messaging and education that students gain have a palpable impact on their views as they head into secondary school and provide abilities to navigate in this new environment, he adds.
Pettman says it is all about promoting self-respect and healthy relationships as these young students cross the threshold toward adulthood.