Mentorship initiative aims to help girls succeed

By RON FANFAIR

Canadian hip-hop artist and actress Michie Mee singles out music industry executive Ivan Berry and raconteur and bookstore co-owner Itah Sadu as her primary role models.

Berry was her manager for several years while Sadu met the artist while serving as a youth programmer at Flemington Park Community Centre several years ago.

‘I always kept Ivan’s words very close to me and some of the things I learned from Itah never leave you,” said Michie Mee, who was featured on the CBC TV series, “Drop the Beat”. “The fact that they were stuck with me on my journey and so many things that I have been part of has really inspired me to want to give back.”

The first Canadian rapper to sign a deal with an American record label, Michie Mee joined Toronto District School Board (TDSB) Director of Education Dr. Chris Spence, writer and motivational speaker Jill Andrew and Generation Y expert Dr. Karyn Spence at last week’s TDSB “Young Women on the Move” girls mentorship initiative.

Nearly 500 Grade Seven to 10 students attended the launch in Don Mills.

Spence said he was excited about the initiative.

“Girls understanding themselves will keep them connected to schools and build a foundation for stronger communities and the social change we need here in Toronto,” he said. “One of the things we are trying to do at the TDSB is to institutionalize the concept of the caring adult because we know when students have a caring adult in their lives, their life outcomes go up.

“We can’t always build a future for our students, but we can build students for the future. That’s what today is all about. We want to motivate you, inspire you and support you to follow your dreams and to remind you that you can be anything that you want to be. We have wonderful speakers and presentations that we know (are) going to make a real big time impact on you as you go back to your schools and back to your communities.

“I also want you to know that today is the beginning and not the end as we give you a greater voice for what you need to be successful, resilient, confident, caring and courageous young women. Learn more, read more and change the globe.”

The new initiative is intended to build upon existing mentorship programs for girls and to develop a socially conscious network of young women and a community of mentors.

It will increase the awareness of issues relevant to young women, create spaces for them to dialogue, foster healthy interpersonal relationships leading to social and academic success, keep them engaged in and connected to school, proactively involve students in social justice activities, empower them to be agents of change and actively partner with community agencies and parents.

Andrew, who is pursuing her PhD in Education, reminded the young women that inner beauty is just as important as outer beauty.

“A beautiful person has an expansive mind, they are articulate, they set career goals and they are in touch with their history,” she told them.

Prior to the start of the event, the audience observed a moment of silence for victims of the Haitian earthquake.

Spence challenged the young people to go back to their schools and organize a relief effort to support the victims.

“We are all part of the same race and that is the human race,” he added. “This tragedy presents a real opportunity to make a difference.”

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