Students Make Meaningful Connections to Local Charities

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A trio of students earned $5,000 for the Bridges for Women Society last week as part of a service project in their Planning 10 class, in partnership with the Toskan Casale Foundation. Anna Mollenhauer, Jade Robinson and Oria James chose to advocate for funding for Bridges

“In an all-girl group, we felt that choosing a society that deals with women would be appropriate. We also all know women who have gone through trauma and know how much a society like Bridges has helped them get their lives back on track,” Oria said.

SMUS has been involved in the Foundation’s Youth in Philanthropy Initiative (YPI) since 2007. Each year, all Planning 10 students get exposed to service by learning about local issues and advocating for a grassroots Victoria charity. After multiple rounds of group presentations, three student groups remained last week for the final presentations, vying for the $5,000 for their charity of choice.

The other two groups in the finals were advocating for the Victoria Therapeutic Riding Association and the Dandelion Society. A panel of judges, including Senior School service leadership students and MLA Andrew Weaver, deliberated on all three worthy presentations before choosing the beneficiary.

“My whole idea on service is to make it meaningful,” said Director of Service Mr. Kevin Cook. Integrating YPI into the Grade 10 curriculum allows students to be exposed to the idea of service, while recognizing the needs of our community, Cook says. “It’s a good thing for them to do; to make our kids get outside their own bubble, and move away from their first world problems. It helps them connect to their cause and the community. Even the kids who don’t win are now better people because they’re exposed to a part of Victoria they’re not normally involved in.”

Anna, Jade and Oria say they got more out of this service experience than they originally expected. Getting an opportunity to do a site visit to Bridges to see the society’s work in action opened their eyes to just how much good comes from the organization.

“It feels amazing to earn this money for them, knowing that so many more women can be helped,” Jade said.

Carrie Everett, coordinator of Bridges’ mentoring program, says it was exciting news to hear that the girls’ presentation successfully earned them the money.

“It’s very heartwarming and encouraging to have the students at SMUS choose Bridges. It means that youth in our community are learning about and engaging with important local social issues,” she said. “It’s evident that our agency has been chosen for a reason – the issue is close to their hearts – and it reminds me that violence against women is felt across generations and that all individuals are able to be a part of creating a healthy community, no matter how young or old.

“$5,000 is a very significant amount of money. Our core funds support our essential services, however needs of our clients go beyond what our basic funding allows. Additional funds support us to keep our cupboards stocked with healthy breakfast and lunch foods,” Everett added. “Currently we’re planning to relocate to a larger office space – more women than ever are accessing our services and we have outgrown our current location. I can imagine that the funds from the Toskan Casale Foundation will support us to move into a larger office with more counselling and workshop rooms.”

The trio of students say the biggest reason they worked so hard and advocated so strongly for Bridges is because they chose a charity that fights for a cause they’re truly passionate about.

“Love your charity,” Anna said, offering advice for the students who will participate in future YPI presentations. “In the end, there will be sports tryouts and exams going on at the same time, and what will get you to the end is knowing you’re doing it for your charity because you love it so much.”

The Toskan Casale Foundation runs YPI which, as detailed by the organization’s mission statement, provides “secondary school students with a hands-on, reality-based experience … which gives them the skills to assess the needs of their community and make grants to grassroots, community-based charities meeting those needs.” YPI grants nearly $1 million to Canadian charities each year, on behalf of students across the country.

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Kyle Slavin
Kyle Slavin is the school's storyteller. Through words and photos, he shares with the community all the amazing things that happen on campus.

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