This is a guest post by CYH volunteer, Emily Groundwater.
For the past seven months I have had the privilege of taking part in the Youth and Gender Media Project with Check Your Head. Developing facilitation skills, engaging with my peers, and having the opportunity to participate in and help lead workshops that critically engage youth with issues of gender representation in the media, as well as other social justice issues, has been incredible. Most invaluable to my experience with the project, however, has been the mentorship program.
In March, the program began with a talk by Jessica Wood, Director of Development and PR at AIDS Vancouver and organizer of the February 14th Women’s Memorial March. Jessica spoke with us about the importance of mentorship, telling us the story of how her most significant mentor over the years supported, encouraged, and challenged her, ultimately changing the course of her life and career. Through her relationship with her mentor, she was able to translate frustrations over the injustices she saw in her community into a productive force, eventually working on the award-winning documentary Finding Dawn, participating in the Residential School Settlement, organizing the Women’s Memorial March in the DTES, and working in her current position at AIDS Vancouver.
With Jessica’s inspiring mentor experience in mind, I was excited to finally meet my mentor C.J. Rowe, the Diversity Advisor – Women, at UBC’s Access and Diversity and a PhD candidate at UBC’s Centre for Cross-Faculty Inquiry in Education. Shortly after being e-introduced, I knew it was a perfect match; we both used the peculiar phrase “le sigh.” Our first meeting included discussion of everything from school, work, and politics, to our thoughts on the difficulties of navigating a technology-dependent world (see: to text or to call?). By the end of our first meeting I was left feeling confident and excited about the future, knowing that C.J. and the mentorship program was going to be an excellent resource through which I could direct my questions, frustrations, and successes with things such as school, future career plans, and my participation in social justice work in the community.
Following the first meetings, my fellow program participants and I gathered to work on a visual project that drew on a common question we had each brought to our respective mentors during our first meeting: what unexpected sacrifices have you made to get where you are today? We had collectively decided on that question as a way to build a common base to share our responses and begin these unique mentorship relationships. Through art-based facilitation techniques, we reflected on anti-violence and safe spaces, creating a word-cloud border. We then came up with a single word to describe our mentor’s answer to the shared question; in my case the word “change,” referring to the unexpected changes in career and life plans that C.J. has experienced thus far. We superimposed these one-word answers onto photographs we had each taken of spaces that we found to be safe, creating a powerful visual display that represented the intergenerational experiences of social justice and violence prevention.
Last month, we had the opportunity to hear from another mentor in the program, Deanna Ogle, the Education Manager at West Coast LEAF (Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund) and a CYH Board Member. Deanna spoke with us about her work at West Coast LEAF and discussed issues concerning women, inequality and the law in Canada. We participated in an activity that examined issues of equality, in which we had to work as a group to divide a single cupcake amongst a group, with each participant in a different situation (ie: one person had not eaten all day, one person made the cupcake, one person paid for the cupcake ingredients, etc.). The activity yielded interesting discussion over conceptions of equality, fairness, and justice, all of which are integral to the issues Check Your Head and the Youth and Gender Media Project engage with.
Overall, the mentorship program has proved to be an exciting and invaluable experience so far. I have had the opportunity to further engage with my community and use skills developed with CYH, having the chance to assist my mentor C.J. in editing UBC’s Media Lit Guide, a resource that helps readers develop a more critical analysis of the media. It has been refreshing to interact with a mentor of a different generation and share our similar and diverging experiences and struggles, which I can take forward throughout my personal, work, and community life. I look forward to continuing the mentorship programing and constantly learning more.
Emily Groundwater is a CYH volunteer with the Youth and Gender Media Project. She is currently finishing her BA in Political Science and Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies at SFU. When she isn’t studying, she’s advocating for social justice in her community, organizing a local music festival, and taking advantage of Vancouver’s beautiful beaches and mountains.