A program called “Crew” created by Catholic Family Service was designed to help young Calgarians, 10 to 14 years of age, build confidence and self-esteem.
Crew is made up of youth, post-secondary student-athlete mentors, parents, caregivers and volunteers.
The student-athletes are members of the University of Calgary Dinos, Mount Royal University Cougars and SAIT Trojans.
When Dinos volleyball player Lexi Peart signed up to be a mentor, she didn’t realize the impact it would end up having on her own life. Peart was paired up with mentee, 12-year-old Dawn Meroniuk.
“Dawn’s really special. She opened up to me pretty quickly. I think our relationship just blossomed right out of the gate,” Peart said. “I think that I’ve learned leadership skills a lot because I’m trying to be a leader to her. We’re not supposed to be their mom or anything, we’re just supposed to be a friend and somebody that they can hang out with.”
Meroniuk says Lexi and the program have helped her come into her own and open up about things that are on her mind.
“It’s awesome, I love it,” Meroniuk said. ” Lexi’s really, really nice, so I find it a lot easier to talk to her. My parents had a divorce so that’s hard.”
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For parents, the weekly outlet isn’t just about dropping their kids off and seeing a transformed child at the end of it. They’re also a part of the process.
Dawn’s mother, Marjorie Nicol, says it’s been amazing to see her daughter grow. She says she’s noticed a huge change in her daughter.
“She’s way more outgoing. How happy she is now and excited to come every Wednesday,” Nicol said. “She wants to join everything.”
Peart says she also gets what feels like a sibling out of the relationship with Dawn and her family.
Meroniuk also looks up to Dawn as a role model.
Daniel Prasad, the Crew program co-ordinator, says a campus is an ideal place for all involved to make connections and inspire kids to think about their future and achieve their goals.
“It’s about having a safe place where they can come and be themselves, express themselves and ultimately figure out who they can be,” Prasad said.
The student-athletes and mentees bond while learning the tools to face the real world.
The Crew website has more details on how the program operates and who can take part.