Building strong women from strong girls

A group of young girls sits in a classroom at the Story Arts Centre in East York. The rooom is buzzing with excitement even before the day begins.

The girls, aged 9-14, have joined a symposium exploring career options and future career paths including: journalism, broadcasting, animation and arts. All of the participants rotated through workshops, centred on the arts. One workshop shows suggests to the girls ‘you can be a reporter,’ and is led by Centennial College journalism professor Tim Doyle.

In learning ‘you can be a reporter,’ each of the participants was given a template of sorts, and asked to interview a classmate about their hopes and dreams are for the future. The girls then transferred there written stories to the teleprompter and read them ‘on air’ at the broadcast desk.

The workshops comprise the fourth “Strong Girls Strong Women” (SGSW) symposium at Centennial’s Story Arts Centre on Oct. 16. SGSW is a non-profit initiative, begun by Centennial College President Ann Buller in 2012. The day-long session pledges a commitment to empowering girls and women through education.

Buller set the tone of the day by asking the girls in attendance if there was ever a time in their lives when they wanted to try something, but didn’t. She suggested that the fear to act can sometimes be characterized as a big, slimy green blob of anxiety.

“The ugly monster that sits up here (on your shoulder),” she said. ”And just as you’re about to try something, it whispers in your ear, ‘Don’t do it. You will look silly and someone might laugh at you.’”

Since she initiated this symposium four years ago, Buller’s mission has been to create safe learning environments for the girls. Sisterhood is powerful, she said, and these symposiums give the girls a chance to explore and ask questions without the fear of embarrassment.

Marilyn Scott, chief of staff at Centennial College also spoke to the girls at the symposium.

“Today is about the big picture,” she said, “celebrating what makes you strong and unique as girls exploring your hopes and dreams for the future.”