Never the Twain shall meet?
Hardly that, for 18 Hjorth Road Elementary students on Monday.
Country super-star Shania Twain visited the North Surrey school to open Western Canada’s first Shania Kids Can program to help less fortunate inner-city kids.
The Ontario native and winner of five Grammy Awards, who is currently on tour, told the Grades 1-5 students that she didn’t have it easy growing up in Ontario.
“I changed schools 17 times in my childhood.”
Her parents sometimes couldn’t pay rent, or had to move for new jobs.
“I was one of the lucky ones,” Twain said of her rags-to-riches musical career.
Asked by eight-year-old Zoe about how she became a “famous singer,” Twain replied she first had to become a singer – starting with learning how to play guitar at age eight. By age 10, she was writing songs.
“Most of the time, while all of the other kids were outside playing, I was in my room playing with my guitar. My guitar was like my toy.”
Twain told the Hjorth Road kids that her family was so poor they often ran out of soap and shampoo, making it hard for her to socialize.
Shania Kids Can will provide Hjorth Road’s poorest students with school supplies, food and recreation equipment at a clubhouse that will be set up at the school.
Students will have access to counselling, academic support and personal skills development, including musical instruments.
Basic supplies can change a child’s whole day, helping them integrate, socialize, become more confident and concentrate on their studies, said Twain.
“This is what this program is set up to do: To stop these kids from falling through the cracks. It’s based on what I needed at various times in my childhood.”
Twain has already run five Shania Kids Can programs in Canada, two funded by herself.
Surrey’s Shania Kids Can is partnered with The Dilawri Foundation and the Surrey Board of Education.
Board of Education Chair Shawn Wilson said that some students don’t have the same resources and privileges as others, potentially putting them behind.
“Our board has always made it a priority of doing all we can to ensure that all students in our district have every chance to realize their potential,” he said.
Shania Kids Can will operate at Hjorth Road Elementary for five years.
“I think the program will speak for itself as we go,” said Twain.