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Month: October 2014


The GEM 2014/2015 mentorship program is officially underway and we have so much to share with you.

GEM101 – Mentee Training

Training our mentees at the Aga Khan Museum was a lot of fun! After a quick game of “speed dating” to break the ice, we launched into a program overview and answered questions.

GEM 101 – Mentor Training

Our mentors also came together to be trained. The talent in the room was evident after a quick round table of introductions.

The positive energy from both mentees and mentors was incredible – both sides were full of excitement and anticipation for the program to begin!

Workshop #1

We kicked off our GEM workshop series this month with Devra U’rzo sharing tips on multiple intelligences, studying, time management, and organization. Read more of her expert advice on our blog!

All of our matches have been made, most mentors and mentees have already met and everyone is looking forward to the nine months ahead.

Again, many thanks to all of our partners, collaborators, donors, and volunteers. We love your passion and dedication – we couldn’t have done this without you!

The GEM Team

Behind the Scenes at GEM’s First Workshop


Ever find yourself up late at night cramming for a test that you should have started preparing for weeks ago? How about highlighting an entire chapter of a textbook or writing pages and pages of summary notes from your textbook, only to realize that you have just re-written the entire thing?

You are not alone! The good news is that becoming a savvy student is a learned behavior and it is within reach.

Last week, Devra D’Urzo, who runs a private tutoring business and is a supply teacher at the Upper Canada College and York School, came to teach to our GEMgirls how to study smarter.

Devra opened the workshop by sharing Angela Lee Duckworth’s TED Talk on the concept of grit, which according to Duckwork means, “passion and perseverance.” She explained that the key to success is grit, not IQ, social intelligence, wealth, or good looks. (This is great news for those of us don’t have an IQ of 160).

“The ability to succeed is really about the amount of work that you put in.”

Here are some key lessons from Devra’s Workshop:

  • You are your own best teacher, get to know yourself and how you learn (tip: find out how you learn by taking a multiple intelligence test)
  • Merely listening to your teacher and completing assignments is never enough
  • Look out for better information sources and better ways to learn (tip: if your text book looks like it was written in the stone age – fine another one!)
  • Not everything you are assigned is equally important, focus on the most important tasks on your agenda
  • Prioritize and plan ahead by creating schedules and to-do lists
  • Realistically estimate the time you need to complete a task
  • Set aside a time and place to study each day
  • Plan study breaks – this simple tip really does help you study better
  • Unplug from the distractions around you (tip: turn off your cell phone, email, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter accounts while studying)
  • Failure isn’t a permanent condition (tips: that math test you did poorly on does not define you, simply learn from your mistakes and move on).

Remember learning does not end when the bell rings or when you get your diploma. It’s an ongoing process that takes practice, perseverance and GRIT.

Devra’s Must Read Resources:

Khan Academy (Website) https://www.khanacademy.org/

Crash Course (Youtube Channel) https://www.youtube.com/user/crashcourse

SQ3R Reading Method (Youtube Video) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0dhcSP_Myjg

What Smart Students Know Adam Robinson (Book)

“The Key To Success? Grit” Angela Lee Duckworth (Youtube Video)


DevraDevra D’Urzo holds a Master of Teaching from the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education and has worked with students for the past ten years. She currently is a supply teacher Upper Canada College and the York School. In addition, she runs her own private tutoring business. The foundation of the work she does with her students is built upon solid study habits.  Her programs are designed to teach students the skills they need so they can experience the academic success they deserve.

Q&A with Azi Boloorchi

Azi Boloorchi, manager at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre and Techna Institute, is a fierce leader and an inspiration. My exclusive interview with her explores challenges, mentorship, and what it takes to be successful.

How old were you when you came to Canada?

I was 17. I moved here during a February snowstorm with my parents and younger sister. We did not have any family or friends here. I remember taking the subway, getting off at a random station, seeing the sign “apartments available for rent” and starting our life in Toronto.

What was it like to adapt to a new country and system?

Quite honestly it feels like a blur. I barely spoke English and certainly did not fit in at our high school. I became shy and introverted and lost my confidence. But I did not lose hope – I knew there was a bright future waiting for me.

What past challenges have shaped you the most?

The challenges that have shaped me the most have certainly been during periods of change. Change is difficult, but with it, usually comes an improvement, a reward, and happiness. For example, pursing an MBA with a background in life sciences and no real work experience was a period of change that was intellectually challenging, physically demanding, and at times emotionally taxing. The workload seemed impossible, but it helped to give me the discipline I need now to deliver on big projects.

Has mentorship impacted your life?

Absolutely! While I have never had a “formal” mentor, I have benefited immensely from one-off or regular informal conversations about my professional development and career goals with people who possess key characteristics that I admire. One person, one coffee chat, or sometimes even one sentence can make a huge impact.

What do you think are the main qualities of a successful person?

Curiosity: Not only can curiosity help us innovate and solve problems, but it also makes us interesting.

Creativity: Creativity is about connecting ideas, seeing the big picture, unconstrained with preconceived notions or existing paradigms or mental models.

Empathy: When you treat your colleague or stakeholder first and foremost as a human being with feelings that is when magic happens and opportunities arise that you never knew existed.

Commitment: Successful people are committed to their goals and do whatever it takes to make it happen.

Resilience: Successful people do not give up. They keep dreaming and just go for it.

What are some tips you could give to girls to raise their confidence?

First, know that nobody on this earth is 100% confident; even the most successful, the richest and the most beautiful people have insecurities, so you are not alone. Secondly, with confidence, I truly believe in the practice of “fake it till you make it” (thanks mom!). Third, try to get to know yourself. It’s really that simple… Or is it? To be perfectly honest I am still trying to figure it out.

What inspired you to become a mentor?

Rochelle, the Founder and Executive Director of GEM, was a silent mentor of mine. I admired her passion to go after what she loves and her ability to handle it all with grace. When she told me about GEM and asked me to be a mentor, I was honoured and excited. This is the type of program that I wish I could have accessed as a 17 year old girl coming to Canada.


Azi Boloorchi is a healthcare strategy and management professional with over eight years of experience leading strategic initiatives from design to delivery and advising innovators, policy makers and executives on their most challenging problems. She currently works as the Manager of Personalized Cancer Medicine Strategy at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre and Techna Institute. She was a teacher at Centennial College for 4 years and volunteered with the United Nations in a disaster relief mission. Azi has graduate degrees in science (MSc) and business (MBA) both from the University of Toronto.

Dear Weakness…Let’s Break Up

International Day of the Girl is dedicated to raising awareness of the rights and challenges girls face around the world – such as violence, poverty, discrimination and limited access to education. While girls continue to face many challenges, International Day of the Girl can also be seen as a chance for girls to realize their strength. Recognizing this day worldwide lets girls know they are special, valued and POWERFUL.

In celebration of this day GEM is launching its 2014/2015 mentorship program!

Here’s to a year of endless opportunities.


We have had our hands full at GEM this month as we prepared to launch our 2014/2015 mentorship program.

Some of the highlights….


There were over 60 strong applicants and Rebecca and I interviewed 35 girls over the course of two weeks. This year we can only accept 30 girls to participate in the program. We want to thank everyone who applied to GEM and whenever possible we will invite all applicants to our workshops and coffee chats.

I promise, we will continue to raise awareness and money so that next year we can provide mentorship opportunities to more girls.

Aga Khan Museum Opening

Our partners, the Aga Khan Museum, also opened its doors this month. It is an honour and a pleasure to work with such an innovative and inspiring organization!


Most importantly, the program would not be launching without an exceptional team. Thank you to GEM’s fabulous board, project manager, three interns and two volunteers for all your hard work!

October is going to be an incredible month… Stay tuned because we have tons of surprises up our sleeves!