Someone to lean on: Program offering pre-teen girls good role models about to expand

Rachel Colquhoun, left, a mentor with Rebound Sarnia-Lambton’s Girls Mentoring Program, poses with mentee Ashleagh White, 12, and program coordinator Paige Van Praet. The pilot program is expanding this fall thanks to a grant from the Canadian Women’s Foundation. Tara Jeffrey

Tara Jeffrey

Ashleagh White has a long list of favourites when it comes to the Girls Mentoring Program she attended through Sarnia-Lambton Rebound.

“The cooking, the movies, the mini-putt, the food…” the bubbly 12-year-old counts on her fingers.

“The stories people told… it was just nice to hang out.”

White was one of 13 girls ages nine to 13 involved in the successful six-month pilot project designed to match adolescent girls with adult female mentors.

The group met bi-weekly, with a focus on relationship building, life skills, emotional development, self-identity and cognitive awareness.

“It’s important to have role models to help them navigate through their pre-teen years, as they transition into young women,” says program coordinator Paige Van Praet. “Just someone to be that rock; someone to lean on; someone to relate to.

“We want to provide a safe space for the girls to connect, inspire and believe.”

The pilot, run in partnership with the Children’s Aid Society, was initially planned for youth in care but was opened up to other youth in the community.

Thanks to its success, Rebound is expanding the Girls Mentoring Program this fall to address service gaps, including rural youth in eastern Lambton County, immigrants and newcomers to the area.

Sessions will begin in September at Rebound’s Sarnia office, with new session locations at the Inwood Library (for rural youth), and at the YMCA Career and Learning Centre, for immigrants and newcomers. The agency is looking to recruit interested youth and mentors for each of the upcoming sessions.

“You could see the girls coming out of their shells, and by the end, it was really neat to see their confidence improving,” said Rachel Colquhoun, one of five adult mentors involved in the pilot project. She and White say they formed a special bond with each other, almost immediately.

“(Rachel) was always so happy. She was never in a bummy mood,” White said of Colquhoun. “She was always ready to do whatever they had planned, and just have fun. And I really liked that.”

For more information about the Girls Mentoring Program, contact Paige at 519-344-2841 ext. 120 or email paige@reboundonline.com.