August 22, 2013 - 5:44 PM
KELOWNA – With a new school year on the horizon, Michelle Tremblay is passing on some valuable lessons to prepare young girls for the challenges they're bound to encounter in their teenage years.
As part of the Fit4Defence program sponsored by Kelowna Crimestoppers, Tremblay uses her skills as a martial artist and life coach to teach young girls how to be assertive, strong and confident.
And with drugs readily available on city streets and the suspected overdose of a 17-year old Kelowna girl earlier this month, Tremblay says self-esteem goes a long way in helping young kids make smart decisions.
In the courtyard at Okanagan College this afternoon, 14 girls from grades seven through nine were participating in the five-day Fit4Defence camp, already completed by 6,000 kids.
“We talked about the Centre of Gravity, a lot of them knew about the drugs that were going on there,” Tremblay says. Her goal is to equip the girls with some basic techniques to protect themselves in risky situations.
“Using their noodle is what I say,” she says. "Don't put yourself in a vulnerable position."
A message she teaches through the four A's: attention, awareness, avoidance and action. And that's where self-defence comes in. Through martial arts and fitness training they cultivate a sense of power.
“For them to actually have an experience of what it feels like to hit a focus pad or punching, it gives them that sense of, wow, I do feel strong.”
And at their age the pressure is building to belong and be accepted by certain crowds.
“A lot of them already are asking: Am I fat? Are my eyes too small? They're really conscious of how they're not fitting in already,” she says.
In their fourth day of the camp, Tremblay challenged the girls to identify some of their strongest emotions.
“What do you do to control your own anger?” she asked the group, cautioning them about drug use, drinking and self-harm – behaviours often used to stifle painful feelings.
Even at age of 13 the girls were well aware and sharing stories of things they witnessed. By partnering with Crimestoppers, the program opens a channel for youth to report unusual behaviour anonymously, without feeling like a tattle-tale. Crimestoppers spokesperson Gerry Guiltenane says drug use is the most common danger for Kelowna's youth and through a proactive campaign they've had a number of tips already.
But is a five-day summer camp likely to leave a lasting impression on the girls?
“You can just see how they're sitting up a little bit straighter,” Tremblay says.
“I know wherever their path goes, they will never forget this experience.” Even if it's just a few words of wisdom that hit them a few years down the road, Tremblay says it's worth it.
“It's the guidance they need and that doesn't always come from parents, it comes from the whole community,” she says. “We're all responsible in some way to help make change.”
To contact the reporter for this story, email Julie Whittet at email@example.com or call (250)718-0428.
News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2013