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Friday, June 14, 2024
Mentor program for young girls starts this spring at Youth Collective
Delicia Walker, left, and Avery Williams from St. Michael Catholic Elementary School play foosball at the NOTL Youth Collective while their friends watch from the sidelines. (Somer Slobodian)

The NOTL Youth Collective is back for its spring session with a full schedule and a new partnership with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Niagara. 

Volunteers from Big Brothers Big Sisters will run the “Go Girls! Healthy Bodies, Healthy Minds!” program for seven weeks starting Tuesday, May 9.

The program is for girls in grades 5 to 8.

“They do activities with them, so hands-on crafts, physical activities, while they’re actually talking about some topics that these girls need to start to think about that are age-appropriate,” said Caroline Polgrabia, the Youth Collective’s planning committee chair.

Registration is required for the program as there are limited spots.

They’ll discuss topics like balanced eating, emotional well-being and how to lead a healthy lifestyle.

It’s all about getting them engaged, socializing and helping them learn new skills, said Polgrabia.

“Also, giving them some really important messaging about their bodies (and) about their socialization skills,” she added.

Big Brothers Big Sisters is a charitable organization that has been mentoring and guiding youth across Canada since 1912.

The Youth Collective and Big Brothers Big Sisters plan to offer the “Game On! Eat Smart, Play Smart!” program to boys in the future, too. This will be similar to the girls’ program.

This is just the beginning of the partnership with Big Brothers Big Sisters, Polgrabia said.

She said she hopes to work with the organization to provide one-on-one mentoring and to host a mentor information session.

“Anybody who’s ever thought about maybe being a big brother or big sister in our community could come out and learn a bit more,” she said. 

The collective’s eight-week winter programming from January 16 to March 10 was a success with 112 youth registered by the end of week eight, said Polgrabia.

Once the winter session wrapped up, she said, volunteers had a lot of time to discuss how to move forward with the spring session.

She said one of the biggest changes was deciding to run the spring program from 4 to 6 p.m from Tuesdays to Fridays, instead of starting at 3 p.m.

“It was challenging for volunteers, and the kids didn’t get there till 3:30 p.m. or 4 p.m. anyway,” she said. 

The collective also decided to dedicate Mondays to older youth in grades 9 to 12. The hours will be from 7 to 9 p.m. 

Some of the feedback from the older youth was that they liked coming to spend time with friends, but they didn’t feel comfortable hanging out in the same space as the younger kids, Polgrabia said.

The collective also decided to create a senior youth lounge.  

There will also be a new workshop led by Ben Higgins called the “Raspberry PI Microcontroller Workshop.”

“Ben Higgins is going to take the kids right through from having a microchip and eventually programming it into small robotics,” Polgrabia said. 

This workshop will run every Thursday for five weeks and can only accommodate eight kids at a time, so registration is required. 

The collective was also able to obtain a section of land outside the church and dedicate it to a community garden that staff and youth will take care of.

“We create the space, the kids bring it to life,” she said.

Many popular programs from the winter session will return like Cooking with Bobbi, Chess Night and Yoga with Rachel. 

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