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Month: October 2015

GEMinar 2: Beat the Busy Brain

On Friday October 2nd, we had our second GEMinar at the Aga Khan Museum and I wouldn’t be wrong if I said it was the best so far!

All of the girls in the program are in high school and many are in their senior year aka stress year. In order for us to get through this tough time, we need to learn how to tackle stress and keep our minds healthy. The GEMinar we had showed us some great tips on how exactly to do that, thus getting its name- Beat the Busy Brain!

We had Dr. V. Wilson come in to teach us a few very important techniques to combat stress based on our own biofeedback. She has worked with many professional athletes and her job is to teach them how to recognize stress in their bodies and stay calm under intense pressure and stress. Personally, she had me all ears when I saw her hooking up Hajra to the lie detector and all of the other biofeedback equipment.

Using Hajra as an example, Dr. Wilson showed us what happens to our brain activity when we are stressed by asking Hajra a bunch of progressively harder math questions in front of the group…definitely a great way to make her feel stressed!

I learned a lot from this GEMinar:

  1. Many of us have short attention spans, particularly me.
  2. I’m breathing all wrong! We learned to calm ourselves by breathing into our bellies instead of our shoulders! What your body does can make you even more stressed!
  3. Focus – when in a boring lecture and our brains get really busy – focus on words by saying them or writing them down to better focus and “Beat the Busy Brain”

I genuinely feel that this GEMinar was helpful and something all our girls and staff needed at this point in the year!

Shanzah Zulfiqar is a grade 12 studen at Marc Garneau C.I., a GEMgirl and Creative Writing Intern at GEM.

Setting goals…Seems fairly straightforward: Set the goal, think about how you are going to do it, and then do it. Right? Maybe. In today’s social media driven society, the future that we envision for ourselves is constantly being influenced and compared to everyone else’s present. Food for thought: Are we setting goals for ourselves, or are we setting other people’s goals for ourselves

I am not standing on a multi-million dollar yacht, basking in the sun next to Jay-Z off the coast of an exotic country. (Beyonce’s latest Instagram posts). I am however, over halfway through a master’s degree, living on my own in Toronto with one of my best friends, writing a blog post for GEM. I have a lot to be proud of and sometimes I have to remind myself that I am happy, and making things happen for ME. It’s important to be inspired and ensure you have a sense of self-direction; and a day in the life of Beyonce’s shoes would be amazing, because let’s be honest, it’s Beyonce! But, if we focus too much on everyone else’s goals and accomplishments, we may lose sight of the importance and the value of our own.

When you’re thinking about your future, it really comes down to acknowledging 2 things: What makes you happy, and what is important to you.


Think about what makes you happy; Write them down, or say them out loud

  • Ask yourself: Are the things you are doing today going to make you happy tomorrow?
    • Example: Being social, and spending time with friends/family makes me really happy. Am I being the best person that I can be to those people? Am I putting in enough quality time with people that I care about?

Think about what is important to you; write them down or say them out loud

  • Ask yourself: Are the things that are important to you going to make you happy tomorrow?
    • Example: Having a job I love is important to me. Is what I am doing right now/today going to help me get to my dream job? What can I do to make myself a more qualified candidate for my dream job?

Make sure before you set any goals or intentions that they reflect who you are, what matters most to you, and what makes you happy. Trust me, it is a lot more rewarding to follow your own dreams than to follow or wish for everyone else’

If you want a happy life, tie it to a goal, not to people or objects – Albert Einstein. 

Jenna Smith writes about how to set goals as we begin our mentorship program. Jenna is a mentor in the GEM program. She is currently pursuing her Masters of Education at University of Toronto and has been a GEMinar facilitator.

Parent’s Night

Shanza Zulfiqar is a Creative Writing Intern for GEM and she recently attended the GEM Parent Night to see what our GEMgirls and their parents thought of the evening.

On Wednesday Septembers the 30th, GEM had its first Parent’s Night at the Thorncliffe Neighborhood Office, which turned out be a huge success. A lot of the girls showed up with their parents and all of them only had one thing to say; “It was a great event, very informative and our parents look very satisfied.”

This event was a great way to communicate between the team and the families and let them know what we girls are up to. Our team took a lot of time to explain, individually, to every parent, as to what the program is about, what we do at the GEMinars and what the overall purpose of what GEM is.

All the girls in our program are from the Thorncliffe and Flemingdon area which are home to a lot of south Asian people. There are many stereotypes which give the message that people from this culture are very over-protective of their children.

Personally, I think wanting to know more about where your little girl is going every week, isn’t being protective. As I was asking the parents what they think about the event, many responded that it was very informative and cleared all the doubts they have.

“I am much more confident about Sadeka’s involvement in GEM, now that I know where she goes and what it is exactly that she does. As a mother, it is my job to look out for my kids and now I know this is one less thing I have to worry about” said Mrs. Memon.

Out of all things that happened, my personal favorite was the refreshments, as there were a variety of ethnic snacks.

Overall, everyone had a great time. We concluded this event by discussing the various trips we can plan with the GEM team and girls. I would like to say a special thank you to the GEM team for being so involved with our families and planning parent’s night. Most parents were impressed with the GEM for creating such a unique program for their girls. We love your passion and dedication – we owe it all to you guys!

Shanzah Zulfiqar is a grade 12 studen at Marc Garneau C.I., a GEMgirl and Creative Writing Intern at GEM.

Aspirations & Impressions

Tabassum Lakhi is a Creative Writing Intern at GEM and also a GEMgirl. Tabbassum shares her first impressions and hopes for the year ahead in the GEM program.

Interviews are intimidating. It’s all about what you can do for the interviewer, what you can bring to the business, and why you’re the right choice. But seldom do you walk into an interview wondering about all the things they can do for you and how much of an asset they would be in your life.

I had a very high impression of GEM walking in and out of the interview I had to do to be accepted into the GEM program, and so far GEM has yet to deter that. After the first meeting, I was able to see in depth, what GEM has planned out for the girls this year. I knew GEMgirls would get lots of opportunities, but I honestly didn’t expect this much; the ballets, the coffee chats, the scholarships, and so much more. I have yet to meet my mentor, but I already know this is going to be a great year.

Before applying to GEM as a creative writing intern, I hadn’t really gotten the opportunity to share my work. With GEM, I’m able to set out of my comfort zone and explore a dream of mine; to be a creative writer. It’s not only an opportunity I am extremely grateful for, but it is also an opportunity that will help enhance my writing skills. Although I love writing, I also love biology, which is why I am pursuing a career in the medical field. I hope to attend university, and become a nurse practitioner, a surgeon, or an orthodontist. To be able to write, and still pursue a career in the medical field, would be the best of both worlds.

New Beginnings

Shanza Zulfiqar is a current GEMgirl and a Creative Writing Intern at GEM this year. She’s a grade 12 student at Marc Garneau collegiate, aspiring writer and law student hopeful. She gives us her impression of the GEMprogram so far.

To me, change and new beginnings have always seemed scary. I keep thinking “How do you know what the future holds?” With the little experience I have from life, I’ve realized there really is no way to find out but there are many things that you’ll feel while you try to figure it out. There will be some nervousness, some excitement but at the end; success.

Now that I’ve joined GEM, I feel the same way again. Words cannot describe how thrilled I am to be a part of this program and how genuinely excited I am to be working with such an amazing team. As for the girls, I see a lot of faces; many I recognize, while others, relatively new. I can’t wait to get to know all of them on a personal level.  But, I also feel a bit nervous (I’m sure I speak for a lot of the other girls) because this is the first time I’ve joined a program outside of school. Regardless, I expect a lot from this program and this year.

I expect to be more confident, social and have a sense of where I want to go in life after high school. I would like the time and opportunity to pursue what I love…law, and study more subjects that can be used to benefit others. I would like to bring justice to the people that are voiceless. I would like to learn about the history of law by talking to lawyers who have lived in different places, studied different types of laws and learn from those who spent their whole lifetime becoming masters of law.

Overall, most of us teenagers don’t like change and we’re scared to try new things but with a supportive team like GEM, I think it’s safe to say we’re off to a very good start.