Equitas reinforces student leadership on wellbeing issues in Surrey Published in 2017 “The student’s community action project targeted those who were in most need of a mentorship type program (young women that were more socially excluded), by collaborating with the school administration team. By having a specific target to the program, we helped to minimize bullying, promote inclusion, all of which contributes to reducing the likelihood of students engaging in negative behaviours as they grow older.” – Educator, Surrey Community Schools Partnership Young women (in grades 11 and 12) in Surrey, BC, from L.A. Matheson Secondary School identified lack of a sense of belonging and connectedness as leading to alienation and potential involvement in gangs/crime which has had an impact on the life choices they make. The group mapped their community and came up with a new idea of how they could make a difference in the lives of their peers, counter gang involvement, and ensure that their school and community are a supportive, inclusive, safe place to be. Surrey is a highly diverse community, where newcomer and immigrant youth sometimes face discrimination and exclusion in schools and neighborhoods, and can be recruited by gangs. Through their Community Action Project, youth worked with Equitas and the Surrey Community School Partnership, to identify issues affecting the participation and success of young women in their school. The young women leading this project talked about gaps in their school’s programs, and came up with a plan for supporting their peers, increasing their access to positive role models, building a greater sense of belonging and community in their school. They designed and set up their very own after-school program – weekly workshops to provide a space for young women to talk about their day, the challenges they were facing and get support from mentors. During workshops young women also participated in active programs (e.g. cooking, yoga, self-defense), learning new skills and building stronger relationships with their peers. The project inspired the school’s management to adopt this program in their after-school programming throughout the full school year.