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This article was published 20/11/2017 (1648 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
One’s teenage years are not always easy, but the Seven Oaks School Division Wayfinders program students have created a tool that advises teens on how they can feel better during this period.
On Nov. 15, the Wayfinders participants, all attending high school, hosted a fashion show that showcased clothing they altered referencing the wisdom, advice and stories gathered from others as well as their personal experiences.
Local artist Karen Cornelius was paired with the school program through WITH ARTS, a community public art program where the Winnipeg Arts Council matches artists with youth-engaged community groups to work on shared goals through the development of an art project.
The result of this partnership is a book called Wayfinders’ Survival Gear Guide which touches on topics such as self-esteem, wisdom, acceptance, tolerance, LGBTQ rights, dreams, and accomplishments.
"This project has given them confidence. Some of the students came, and they were hesitant. And then they get going, and they make something really gorgeous, it’s really touching," Cornelius said. "Art is a way to bring people together, a way to connect, and a way to feel good about yourself because you make something that is wonderful that you can have and hold in your hands."
When Cornelius spoke with the students to find out what their interests were and started brainstorming a theme for their project, safety was the most popular topic. Noticing the Value Village located just beside the school, she started thinking of ways the students could recycle clothing to express different aspects of safety.
It took almost 18 months for them to complete the project and Cornelius said they developed strong bonds.
"As we worked on this project, we chatted. It was a powerful experience to hang out together, and people opened up," Cornelius said, adding she is sad the project is over.
Eighty-eight students contributed to the book’s publication and additional students helped set up the fashion show and model the clothes. Grade 12 student Emilia Malysheva said it was exciting to see the project coming together.
"It was really interesting the way Cornelius helped us represent clothing as actual protective gear and protection in real life, how to see life as a teenager," she commented. "I got to express myself, and now people will get to see it."
The guide has six chapters exploring the students’ concept of safety, and for each chapter the students created a different piece of clothing. Safety vests explored issues of rights, tolerance and respect for all. Self-talk hoodies explored ways to build healthy self-esteem and positive body image. Dream pants expressed their dreams. Value Village donated all the clothing the students worked on.
Wayfinders director Meghan Loewan-Cook said the conversations they had throughout this project were transformative and a unique experience for their organization.
"Cornelius came to us with vision, energy and creativity and had an unbelievable ability to build relationships with kids really quickly and get them to talk about deep things from their heart," she said.
The Wayfinders Survival Gear Guide will be distributed to schools and Winnipeg public libraries and is available online at http://www.7oaks.org/school/Wayfinders/Pages/newsitem.aspx?ItemID=77
Community journalist — The Times
Ligia Braidotti was the community journalist for The Times until 2019.