By Jasmine Franklin
Nearly 20 Samson First Nation youths walked the runway April 30 filled with confidence and the true meaning of inner beauty.
Paradigm Esteem hosted a five-day “I am beautiful because…” program in the community to assist young women and men in grasping the meaning of true beauty with appreciation.
“We teach these kids that you are only beautiful if you find that inside yourself — and a big part of that is knowing where to look inside yourself,” said Amanda Welliver founder and president of Paradigm Esteem. “We instruct them on how to realize they’re beautiful every day and appreciate themselves for who they are.”
Graduation from the program was held at the Howard Buffalo Memorial Centre, where participants got to strut their newfound confidence down a runway in front of parents and peers.
“To me, this was a big lifestyle change,” said Samson resident and participant Erin Montour, 15. “Before this, I wasn’t outgoing, but when Amanda taught us how to be ourselves, it really stuck with me.”
Charmine Crance, Samson Youth Development co-ordinator, said the program has really changed the youths involved and taught them to respect themselves.
“It is important for them to develop self-esteem today because so there is so much peer pressure and bullying — especially in this community,” Crane said. “They need to be their own person.”
Participants were sponsored by Samson Youth Development with $17,000 for the project. Over the course of five days, youths completed booklets teaching them about what real beauty is and showing them how in fact, models and television depictions of celebrities are not real.
“Most of the children we teach are shocked to see before and after air brushing photos of models,” Welliver said. “It really helps to give them the confidence to just be themselves when they realize most of these images are not real. The (youths) in Samson were incredible. They really opened up and learned how to feel stronger.”
Also included in the program were individual photo sessions complete with hair and makeup, instructions on walking with confidence, a workshop on photographic movement and the graduation showing as well as a buffet dinner.
“Before this I was always thinking negative,’ said participant Kristin Lightning, 15.” But now that I came here, I think positive and really listen to my inner core.”
Welliver started Paradigm Esteem after she went through childhood difficulties including severe bullying and attempted suicide.
“I know what it feels like to have no self-esteem,” she said. “But after I decided I was going to live the way I wanted to live I went from geek to captain of the cheerleading squad.”
Paradigm Esteem talks to youths in communities throughout Alberta and Saskatchewan. Welliver was named entrepreneur of the year in 2006 for her work with youths.
For more information on the program visit www.paradigmesteem.com