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Month: November 2014

Every one of our GEMgirls told us they planned on attending university after high school, but several of our girls also told us they felt anxious and unprepared when it came to applying to university. So, today, we are hosting a University Application Workshop for GEMgirls and girls in the Flemingdon Thorncliffe community. Tanya (Toni) De Mello, GEM mentor, and Director of Equity and Diversity Office at the University of Toronto (Scarborough Campus) is facilitating this workshop. The session will focus on writing strong personal statements – all participants will learn the essential components of a personal statement and receive individual feedback on their essays.



Your Daily Dose of Joy

What is Joyous Health?

Joyous Health means feeling and looking beautiful, having energy for exercise, a positive mental attitude and good digestion. The Joyous Health blog has hundreds of inspiring articles and delicious recipes to teach people that healthy & delicious aren’t mutually exclusive.

What advice would you give to someone pursuing a career in nutrition?
Do plenty of research and make sure you choose a school that you feel good about. There are many different nutrition philosophies and opportunities for learning. I first thought that becoming a Dietician was the best route for me. When I learned more I realized it really did not jive well with my intuition and my philosophy. I’m glad I pursed the path of holistic nutrition.

I read on your blog that you suffered from hormonal imbalance, anxiety, and digestive problems growing up. Can you share how that impacted you?
There were many times I felt “hopeless”. I went to many specialists and no one could offer a solution other than prescription medications. This was ultimately what drove me to become my own health advocate. I gave up dieting and began living! Being unwell has inspired me to continue to take good care of myself and stay on this wellness path. The truth is – you are the best person to take care of you.

What is the best snack to have while taking a study break and why?
Something with protein, good fat and complex carbs. Most people snack on carbs and sugary treats which spike your blood sugar and cause a crash.  Carbs and sugars make you cranky, crave more and ultimately it does not provide the body with what it needs. A smoothie with berries, banana, spinach, protein powder and almond milk or sliced apple and almond butter or my carrot cake balls is a great alternative. My carrot cake ball recipe is provided below.

What are foods that energize you?
Green smoothies, nuts and seeds, vegetables, whole fruits and the avoidance of refined carbs i.e. cookies, chips, crackers.

What is a common nutrition myth that you can dismiss?
Diets don’t work because deprivation is not sustainable. Not all calories are created equal – so if you focus on whole, high quality foods your body will thank you.

Where did the idea of Toronto’s first ever integrated nutrition and yoga program, Eat Well, Feel Well, come from?
Eat Well Feel Well is a 6-week holistic nutrition and yoga program designed to help people create a healthier body and mind in a peaceful and loving environment. We created this program because we felt and still feel that people need more self-care. This program teaches you, (without being preachy) how to take good care of — YOU!

Joy McCarthy is a Holistic Nutritionist, author of Joyous Health: East & Live Well without Dieting, professional speaker, nutrition expert on Global’s Morning Show, Faculty Member at Institute of Holistic Nutrition and co-creator of Eat Well Feel Well, Toronto’s first integrated nutrition and yoga program. For more information visit her website at www.joyoushealth.com

Joy's Carrot Balls Recipe

(Click Photo to Enlarge)

Selina McCallum is a GEMgirl in the 2014/15 cohort,  student at Marc Garneau C.I. and a Digital Journalism Intern for GEM.


Grit Girl

“True talent is honed over time, through practice, through perseverance: through grit.”

We’ve all known people who seem to get whatever they want so effortlessly – it’s as if they weren’t even trying. They get the grades, the job, the glory, and we are left wondering how on earth we could possibly compete with such raw talent. Raw talent! Well, what if I told you: There is no such thing.

Sure, some people are born with natural abilities, but this isn’t the raw talent that we generally associate with young prodigies; and if it is, then it doesn’t necessarily last long. True talent is honed over time, through practice, through perseverance: through grit. You may be a natural-born genius, but you’re not going to go far if you sit on your butt all day without a care in the world.

I believe that many of us are thinking about it the wrong way. We believe that natural talent matters more than important qualities, such as determination and dedication. My mother always told me that you don’t have to be born with a natural aptitude for something in order to be successful at it. Like any good thing in life, excellence takes time. If you put in long hours of extra studying or consistent practicing, your perseverance will put you on par with or even surpass those who were born with talent all along. Malcolm Gladwell refers to this simple key to success as the 10,000-hour rule.

It doesn’t seem fair, though, does it? That some people are forced to put in a hundred times more effort to get to the same level that others are just born into. Rest assured, we have something that they don’t have. We have failures, and many of them. It is these failures that make us all the more resilient. Having tried something and failed but having had the resolve and the courage to try again, face another failure, and then another, and another: that is true grit. And in the long run, it’s the gritty girls who will triumph.

A Conversation with Professor Gilbert

“Knowing my own strengths and weaknesses, and accepting them, empowers me like nothing else”

What do you do at the University of Toronto?

I am an Assistant Professor in the Institute of Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering. In this role I teach undergraduate and graduate level courses, guide thesis studies and write grants to support our research efforts. I also have a chance to get in the laboratory and do some research from time to time!

Can you tell us about the research done at the Gilbert Lab?

Our research focuses on skeletal muscle regenerative medicine. In particular, we are really interested in trying to understand the signals that wake up the stem cells that live in skeletal muscle tissue. Our hope is that if we figure out what controls muscle stem cells, we could then develop drugs that improve skeletal muscle repair in the aging population.

What challenges did you face growing up?

I was born and raised in beautiful New Hampshire in the United States. My parents were young when I was born, and as a result, we struggled financially, but we always had enough to eat, a roof over our heads, and love. Another challenge I faced growing up was being the first person in my extended family to attend college. Without family members to help me navigate the complex transition from high school to college, I really lagged behind my peers in the beginning.

How has mentorship impacted your life?

Mentorship played an important role at so many pivotal points in my life. It was my track coach who steered me towards college. My coach and his wife really pushed their girls to go to college and as a result of spending so much time with the family, I, too, came to believe that college is what you do after high school – and I’m so glad that I did!

Do you think it’s important to ask for help? Why?

Asking for help can be one of the hardest things to do. The first step is the realization that you are struggling. Asking for help often feels like a personal risk because it feels as though you are revealing a weakness, but in reality, asking for help reveals inner strength. It takes courage to ask for help. Ultimately, you come to find that you are not the first person to face the challenge that is causing you such immense stress.

What empowers you?

Empowerment is defined in different ways to different people. For me, empowerment comes from knowing that I am a work in progress. I take joy in discovering my strengths and constantly evolving to tweak my weaknesses. Knowing my own strengths and weaknesses, and accepting them, empowers me like nothing else.

What advice would you give to young girls who want to raise their confidence?

The best advice I can give is to identify things that scare you and actively confront them one at a time. Early in my career I was terrified of giving oral presentations. What if I mess up? What if they are talking about me in the audience? I knew this was something I needed to overcome so I started practicing in front of peers and larger audiences. The confidence you gain with each fear you overcome is exponential!

Penney Gilbert grew up in Lebanon, New Hampshire, a small town in the United States. It was there that her interest in biology was first sparked and where she gained an appreciation for nature. She then traveled to the state of Pennsylvania where she earned a BSc from Haverford College (1995), a small liberal arts college in the suburbs of Philadelphia. Following college, Penney spent two years working as a research technician at the University of Pennsylvania (UPENN) during the weekdays and as waitress on the weekends. Penney pursued graduate studies at UPENN as a result of encouragement from her supervisor. She earned her PhD (2006) for her thesis studies, which identified a new breast cancer tumor suppressor gene. She then traveled further west for her postdoctoral studies at Stanford University and subsequently accepted an Assistant Professorship at the University of Toronto in the Institute of Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering.


BSS & GEM Partner

A Note from BSS Head of School Deryn Lavell

As Canada’s oldest day and boarding school for girls in JK to Grade 12, we have a pretty big network of alumnae around the world. They range from those who’ve just graduated to those who have been carving out an inspiring vocation for decades. It’s through a connection with one of our ‘Old Girls’, as we affectionately call them – Girls E-Mentorship (GEM) Founder and Executive Director Rochelle de Goias – that our exciting new partnership with GEM arose. The Bishop Strachan School (BSS) is thrilled to be working with GEM to offer young girls an opportunity to attend without charge an intensive one-week math skills enhancement program through our Summer Academy. Here, GEMgirls will have access to excellent resources and facilities in July or August as they upgrade their skills and expand their experience. We know that when a girl has the opportunity to focus on one subject area with the expertise and support of teachers who care, that student is inspired to reach further. Preparing for the school year ahead in this way will bolster her confidence, and her competence, and will open any number of doors to a stronger future. Reflecting our longstanding tradition of supporting all students, BSS offers a Scholarships and Financial Assistance program, which is designed to encourage and reward students who demonstrate exceptional achievements in specific areas, and to support families who need extra help with tuition costs. We look forward to welcoming GEMgirls to our campus and to building on the ways we can support the outstanding work GEM does every day.