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Selina McCallum: Why become a GEMgirl?

Selina McCallum was one of our amazing GEMgirls in 2014-15. Her mentors were Amoryn Engel and Sharlyn Carrington. We interview her about her experience in The GEM Program.

-What did you love about The GEM Program?
-My favourite part of the GEM program were the GEMinars. I liked that each one had something different to offer and had a variety of guest speakers. They were informative and very helpful. I learned skills that I still use in my everyday life.

-What did you get out of your mentorship relationship?
-The relationship with my mentors boosted my confidence and helped me become more open with people. They offered me their guidance and we built a strong relationship. My mentors were Amoryn Engel and Sharlyn Carrington. They shared their career experiences with me, which helped me decide what career path I wanted to take. They also helped me to come up with pros and cons list to determine what school to go to. I found support and a friendship that continued after the program ended.

-How did GEM impact your life?
-GEM has opened a lot of doors for me. The program gave me a chance to explore different career paths. It helped me develop confidence and be a stronger person. GEM also gave me a paid internship doing something I loved. I’m very grateful for all the opportunities that GEM has presented to me.

-What are you doing now?
-I’m a second- year student at the University of Windsor. I’m doing a double major in Digital Journalism and Communication, and Media and Film. I’m also celebrating the one-year anniversary of my photography website: Shot by Selina (@shotbyselina).

-What would you say to someone who may be interested in GEM?
-You won’t have any regrets! GEM will offer you many opportunities and equip you with a wide range of skills for your future. It will also give you the chance to be around like-minded individuals, make new friends and get prepared for college and university.

Congrats GEMerald Award Winners!

This year GEM started a scholarship fund called the GEMerald Awards. The intention is that every year the GEM community of mentors, supporters and donors will contribute to a fund that will benefit GEMgirls pursuing further education. This year we had a fantastic group of GEMgirls win 5 awards. Each GEMgirl was encouraged to apply and to highlight her contribution to GEM as well as address how the GEM program had positively impacted their life. Girls were chosen through an evaluation process lead by GEM Mentors that emphasized the written application and the strength of their reference.

The winners of the first ever GEMerald Scholarships were:

Zarah Ahmad – GEMerald Scholarship Winner, Apple MacBook

Hira Durvesh – GEMerald Scholarship Winner, Apple MacBook

Fatima Waheed – GEMerald Scholarship Winner, $1000

Aliza Fatima – GEMerald Scholarship Winner, $750

Hajar Seiyad – GEMerald Scholarship Winner, $500



Calling a Minga: Influencers of Tomorrow Summit

The call of a “minga” is a very powerful thing. We came together on April 16, at the annual Influencers of Tomorrow summit, to benefit all people. That is essentially what the call of “minga” is, at least according to Marc Kielburger, the co-founder of Free the Children and Me to We. The Influencers of Tomorrow Summit, was organized by ten young women from Girls e-Mentorship (GEM) and The Bishop Strachan School (BSS), and consisted of many influential guest speakers, with various activities, and amazing SWAG bags at the end of the event.

IOT Summit was all about how we can make Toronto more inclusive? and how we can get more women accepting leadership roles? We had influential women from all over Canada to speaking at the event. Canadian physician and womens rights advocate, Alaa Murabit, Canadian ambassador for UNICEF, Zahra Al-Harazi, Premier of Ontario and Women’s Advocate, Kathleen Wynne, and Humans Rights Watch, Jasmine Herlt, and Independent Film Director Shadeism, Nayani Thiyagarajah. As well as a musical performance by Nefe.

An average 16 year-old might just be finishing the eleventh grade, but Alaa Murabit, finished high school at 15 years old.  Alaa then moved on to finish medical school, at 22. Alaa’s secret to achieving her level of success, was that she thought she knew it all. It didn’t make her popular, but it made her successful, it made her an ‘overachiever’. It made her intellectual, understanding, confident, and finally it made her the voice of women in Libya. It made her women’s rights and youth activist. At only 26, Alaa has achieved more than one can imagine. Alaa said that only 1-in-10 women ask for promotions, while 9-in-10 men do. Women are capable of being leaders, so why shouldn’t they ask for a promotion? One of the most important things Alaa said in her captivating speech was that the IOT summit was not impressive, it was expected. We as women, should be expected, to come together, and talk about how we can create change, how we can shift the paradigm, and work towards a better future. It is expected of us to put in work, and get results.

Kathleen Wynne is the Premier of Ontario, but she is also the first openly gay head of government, and only the second in the entire English-speaking world. She not only represents women, but also the LGBTQ community. When she first decided to run for school trustee, she didn’t know much about what it entails, but she has learned along the way. She has learned to make educated decisions, by not only listening to the citizens, but also listening to scientists, and professionals who she can trust. Kathleen Wynne has learned that everyone will never be pleased with you, but the best thing to do, is what’s best for the country.

Throughout the day, we heard from many other influential people, like Zahra Al-Harazi, who spoke about her personal experience of getting married at 17 and then moving back and forth from Canada to Yemen to finally having a successful marketing and communications studio. We got to listen to the beautiful voice of Nefe. Canadian Olympic Gold-Medalist, Clara Hughes also sent a video message talking about how she overcame depression, and came to win multiple medals in speed skating, and cycling. 

Thank you to all the guest speakers, and sponsors Burgundy Asset Management, RBC Canada, Empire Life and MaRS Discovery District. The IOT summit, was both rewarding, and influential.

Tabassum Lakhi is a Creative Writing Intern at GEM and also a GEMgirl.


How Volunteering Has Helped Me in My Job Search

Currently, I am a GEM volunteer finishing a post-graduate degree in Public Relations. This entire semester has been spent focusing on finding a summer position. How do I find the time to be in school full time, work part-time and volunteer? The answer is simple: I make time. Volunteering has not only helped me on a personal level, but it has helped me to develop skills I have used in my job search, and here is why:
It allows me to feel apart of something larger than myself. Writing resumes and cover letters all the time you start to allow yourself to think as an “I”. Not to mention all of the job interviews where you explain your strengths, your accomplishments and how you will be an integral part of an organization. While this is great and warranted, sometimes we need to take a step back and think about the bigger picture.
Networking. Through GEM I can honestly say that I have made some incredible connections and have truly learnt the value of being a part of a team. Although I am not always in the office, in fact I am only there one day a week, I never feel left out and have forced myself to be engaged in my surroundings.
How to compartmentalize. Say that three times fast. Sometimes it’s hard to sit down and focus on something when it’s unpaid and you are busy with homework, social calendars and home life. Volunteering has allowed me to pick and choose what I need to focus on in that moment, be present and put my best foot forward. This is a critical skill not only in the job hunt but once you’re in a position as well.
Spend your time volunteering for a cause you believe in. Maybe your position as a volunteer will open the door to a new job opportunity, you never know until you try.
Blog by Jamie Crawford-Ritchie. Jamie is a student at Seneca College’s Public Relations program and volunteers at GEM using her social media prowess. When she’s not at school, volunteering with GEM or working at her part-time job, she’s on social media or dreaming about going back to Disneyland.
Photo: Jamie Crawford-Ritchie, Social Media Volunteer at GEM.

Carmen as a Connector

Blog written by Alexander Neef, General Director of the Canadian Opera Company

Saturday April 9th, 20 GEMgirls and their mentors are attending the final dress rehearsal of the Canadian Opera Company’s performance of Carmen, at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts.

Opera synthesizes many arts forms—music, drama, design, art— and, conceived over 400 years ago, has endured by constantly adapting to the ever-changing artistic landscape. Art is a great leveler—connecting people from all cultural, social, ethnic and historical backgrounds. Opera survived because it engages audience’s souls, using the power of the human voice to focus on human emotions. No matter the character or when they lived—monarchs or mermaids; gods or gentry; or, as in the love triangle at the heart of Carmen, a sexually liberated female cigarette factory worker, a duty-bound soldier, and charismatic bullfighter—the emotional highs and lows that sing through the music unfailingly connect operas to audiences.

Carmen was revolutionary. In 1875, Paris had never seen anything like it: an opera about “real” people living “real” lives. Uncompromising, sexually self-aware and societally marginalized, Carmen lives by her own rules which often do not match society’s expectations, unlike any character portrayed before. This, along with the plot’s unflinching realism, outraged audiences. But the scandal didn’t last long. Within a few months, Carmen was a triumph, and it continues to be one of the world’s most popular operas. (Carmen was first performed in Toronto, only four years after its premiere in Paris!).

George Bizet’s music is at once sensual, emotional and unforgettable. But under its irresistible appeal lays rich psychological interaction. These are real people with stories that could be ripped from today’s headlines. How much more relevant can you get?