Building confidence, living a balanced lifestyle and appreciating yourself and others around you is the message one young Surrey woman is hoping to spread throughout schools in the Lower Mainland.
While she was in high school, Taylor Hui noticed the negativity that surrounded her and others, including girls treating classmates with disrespect and trying to put each other down to make themselves feel better.
So three years ago, while in Grade 11 at Fraser Heights Secondary School, Hui founded BeaYOUtiful, a not-for-profit program for elementary school-aged girls which aims to teach them about themselves and how to set personal goals and take charge of their own lives.
Hui, now 20 and an international relations and business student at SFU, developed the six-week curriculum to help girls open up about their problems while at the same time challenge them to find solutions.
Having seen friends deal with eating disorders, low self-esteem and even being bullied herself, Hui noticed a gap in the system.
“I found these types of programs were not available to help girls overcome these issues early on in life,” she said. “I know a lot of these problems start in elementary school, so if you can target them at a young age you can really make a difference.”
Through various conferences she attended or during her own speaking engagements, Hui was able to partner with young student mentors who help facilitate the classes at various schools. The mentors range in age from 16-21 and are often university students studying social sciences who are able to connect with the girls on the same level.
After they have completed a background check, the mentors then take part in a two-day mentorship training program designed by Hui to help them understand the course outline and expectations.
The BeaYOUtiful program runs once a week has participants work through different modules, either setting personal goals using dream boards, or talking about personal challenges and how to overcome them.
One class includes a pampering night where the girls learn to be comfortable in their own skin and recognize their inner beauty.
“We even brought in an artist to show the girls different ways art can be used to reduce stress using drawing and even singing,” said Hui.
If mentors feel the situation warrants it, they can get school administration involved and even enlist the help of a community counsellor if the issues that come up are more than they can handle.
For Cindrich Elementary Grade 7 student Shingar Garcha, the program has helped her and her classmates better understand each other.
“I used to get into fights in school, so when I first showed up, I thought, ‘oh wow, this is going to be awkward,’” she said “But we started to share things about each other and I found we actually had things in common and we’ve become good friends.”
Shingar now feels she has more confidence and understands how to deal with stressful situations and help people.
For Simran Sandhu, BeaYOUtiful has taught her to believe in herself and learn that she is not alone.
“I was often unmotivated, but now when things get tough I know to take a deep breath and think about how lucky I am.”
For more information about the program, visit http://foreverbeayoutiful.com