Hay River

They say that the point of focus testing is to take something that works in theory and see how it works in the real world. So, in that case, our very first focus test was a success. Because one thing that does NOT work in the real world is starting an optional workshop for teenagers at 9am on a Saturday.

Yeah, it sounds obvious. It became obvious to us around 9:10am on that Saturday.

ANYWAY. So we started about three hours late. The girls came, dragged some friends, and we were off. Looking back, this workshop was a lot different than it is now – besides some of the same props, basically unrecognizable. But it was still special. The girls were a bit younger than we were expecting – 12 and 13, mostly – but by their responses, you could tell that they had a bit more life experience than a 12 or 13 year old really needs.

We were in the Hay River Youth Centre, a well-worn, well-loved building with murals and a super creepy poster of Tom Cruise (I think, I stopped looking at it). Marissa and Tali, the centre leaders, were participating in the workshop and were really energetic and helpful in keeping everything running smoothly, and being the first to contribute when no one else wanted to jump in.

At times, we could tell that the girls didn’t want to contribute a ton, and it was a bit tough to motivate them. There was a huge victory though when one of the girls hid in her sweater during the storytelling part, and we thought she’d fallen asleep. After everyone else had told their story, she poked her head out of her shirt, and asked if she could read us a story she’d written about healthy relationships. It was the most she’d spoken all day, but it was awesome to see that even if she wasn’t talking, she was thinking.

The end of the day included a lot of feathers and sparkles, and some gross hats. The girls really got into the acting games, although Candice and I were caught off guard by a newspaper reporter showing up to interview us. We left with an action item to write some media statements, but the girls looked adorable in the photo that got published.

—  by Nancy MacNeill, Project Coordinator