It’s great to be on home turf at Sir John Franklin School! Although we are lucky to have access to a variety of resources here in Yellowknife, teaching someone to spell and identify “chlamydia” does not necessarily help her make healthy choices regarding her relationships. The day starts with an ambush (I say this in jest, but Nancy and I have unexpectedly appeared in the Principal’s office multiple times this semester) of the school office, where we meet the new Foxes. I don’t have an established relationship with any of the girls (we thought it was important to recruit anonymously), but when we begin the ice-breakers, the Foxes become more comfortable talking to me. One of our first activities is creating the rules for the space; we let the Foxes know that they are the ones guiding the workshop, and therefore can make rules that reflect their own goals in participating. My rule is always “I would like to be allowed to swear, so long as it does not offend or is directed at anyone in the space”, because at points the subject matter can be heavy for some of the Foxes, and we don’t want them to feel embarrassed for swearing when they are sharing a personal experience. As a group, we talk about the non-judgment rule, and we make clear that all personal information shared with each other should stay in the room. A lot of the Foxes look relieved. It’s good to have mutual respect in the space; I can’t help but think trust makes the room look a bit brighter.
I join in on the group activities, but make sure not to make any suggestions that would bias the focus testing. For example, in the student led sex ed class, it’s essential that the Foxes are the ones that come up with the material because it gives Candice an idea of how much they have learned previously, as well as informs her of any misconceptions they may have. One of the primary roles of the Peer Leaders is to bridge the gap between the facilitator and the participants, maintaining effective communication throughout the workshop by helping the Foxes to elaborate, or to clarify their ideas. Nancy or Candice always make sure to answer any questions the participants may have; I always make sure to ask the Foxes questions to confirm that they understand. Once the project is piloted, we hope that the role of Peer Leader will be taken by young women who have already participated in the focus testing. We want to create an opportunity for previous participants to put their newfound knowledge in action.
It seems even those who began the day tucked into the corners have joined in with feather boas and combat boots for the final group scene of the day. There’s giggling, great gangster impressions, and of course some responsible choices in regards to sexual health. It’s been an enormous pleasure working with such strong personalities during the focus testing, especially here at home.
YK Foxes represent!
— by Makenzie Zouboules, FOXY Peer Educator