April 2, 2015 Facebook Twitter Linkedin

Lisa Michienzi, Intern, Communications & Media Relations

On Tuesday night, Fourth year honours student Jenna Strathearn was recognized for her contributions to the London community at an awards ceremony hosted at the Marconi Club.

Strathearn, who is studying Social Justice and Peace Studies (SJPS) and Childhood and Social Institutions (CSI) at King’s University College, was presented with the Ontario Volunteer Service Award for her avid volunteerism with London’s Boys’ and Girls’ Club.

The fourth year student has volunteered with the children’s based organization for the past three years.

Strathearn’s volunteering with the Boys’ and Girls’ Club began in her second year, when a component of one of her Social Justice and Peace Studies courses required forty hours of community involvement with a not-for-profit within the city.

She decided to search out an organization that would combine the interests of both her areas of study. “Since I’m in SJPS and CSI, I though the Boys’ and Girls’ Club would be a good amalgamation of the two,” says Strathearn.

Strathearn had the benefit of beginning her volunteer time with the organization as they were rolling out a new initiative called Just for Girls. She had the unique experience of being the first volunteer to participate in the clubs new initiative.

The program was instituted in 2012 with funding to help empower young women in grades 6-8 who have been recommended to the program. Just for Girls focuses on promoting healthy body image, healthy relationships, coping mechanisms and coping skills, peer support and interaction.

The program is divided into semesters. In the first semester of the program there is a physical activity component where the girls participate in activities, such as zumba, to learn how to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Accompanying this, the girls also learn how to make healthy snacks, like oatmeal cookies, smoothies, and at the end, a special treat of vegan chocolate cake.

The second semester of the program is a mentoring initiative, which Strathearn has enjoyed participating in. The King’s student typically mentor’s every other group that comes through the program, and enjoys the opportunity to get to know the girls and mentor them positively.

A large component of helping these girls is done through activities each week. “We do a lot of work with the girls through art.” Strathearn’s favorite activity- “the dream pillow is my favorite. We get fabric; design it by drawing what that person is passionate about and what they enjoy. We then have the girls write letters to themselves for the future, put it in the pillow, stuff it, sow it shut until they are twenty-five when they can open the letter.” The activity is meant to give hope and inspire the girls to reach their future goals.  

All the girls participating in the program have similar backgrounds, lots are in foster care, and some are in different spectrums in regards to their familial situations. Strathearn has come into contact with many situations during her time volunteering with the program. It’s what keeps her coming back.

“In my first experience, I bonded so closely with some of the girls, I felt like I made such a connection with them. If thought that if I had a connection with one group, there was another group that needs it just as much,” says Stathearn.

It’s the connectivity she feels working with these individuals that brings the forth year student back year after year to work with the program. “This particular group is special to me because all girls regardless of socio-economic class, race, etcetera go through similar experiences. We all have body image issues, and everyone can have a resource to eat healthy, and be healthy.”

This experience has proven to be a very positive one, and a great experience for the SJPS and CSI student. “Volunteering here made me realize that I can’t help fix, but I can be there to listen, which is what these girls actually want. That is the easiest thing I could do, take three hours out of my week to listen.“

As for how the fourth year student manages her studies with volunteering, she says it’s all about balance and organization.

“How do I balance it… a lot of late nights. I am very much a type a personality, I am very organized, and I plan everything, my phone has all my appointment and times on it.  I have due dates on my calendar and they are all circled. You really need self discipline,” says Strathearn. 

The King’s community would like to congratulate Jenna Strathearn on her achievement and recognition within the London community for her avid volunteerism, and commitment to its young people.