Written by Megan Solberg
Finding the perfect high school graduation gown is a monumental moment for young women in Saskatchewan. For some girls, however, that process can be daunting, especially if they feel self-conscious, uncomfortable, and isolated in the process. Zoya remembers being incredibly nervous about finding a dress, particularly as she was new to Canada and did not yet feel as though she belonged to a social circle or community yet.
Zoya moved to Canada from Pakistan when she was 17 with her parents and sisters. Her parents made the decision to move because they wanted a better life and a good education for their five daughters. When she first moved here, Zoya was looking for a community to join because she did not have many friends yet. That’s when she spotted a poster for The Princess Shop hanging in her new high school.
The Princess Shop Mentorship and Female Youth Development Inc. is a non-profit organization in Saskatoon whose mission aims to provide young women in the community with the tools, resources, support, and confidence to achieve their dreams. By providing this access, TPS empowers women to work towards their goals and grow into passionate, driven change-makers and leaders in their own lives and in their communities.
Zoya enrolled in TPS’s Dress Program, an initiative that lends donated dresses and accessories to female-identified and female expressing graduates in financial and/or social need to create an equivalent graduation experience to their peers. Zoya was amazed by all the beautiful dresses she had to choose from at TPS. With four sisters, she had always worn a lot of hand-me-downs, so having options to choose from was incredibly exciting.
“Everyone was so helpful! Every time I came out in a dress, Kayla told me how beautiful I looked, and it made me feel very excited and happy. I wouldn’t have enjoyed the process of trying to find a dress on my own. I remember feeling self-conscious what I first walked in, but I walked out feeling very comfortable. Everyone made me feel special. And when I tried on my graduation dress, I loved it! And I never wore pink!”
The Dress Program’s impact did not stop at graduation for Zoya. Through this program, she met Kayla, who encouraged her to continue with another of TPS’s programs, the Fairy Godmother Program. This program provides Princess Graduates with the needed self-awareness, self-confidence, motivation, and life skills to accomplish their goals through a mentorship relationship.
Zoya and Kayla became fast friends. Zoya says, “I had a wall up because I didn’t have a social circle in school and Kayla put me at ease about joining the Fairy Godmother Program. I feel trust and connectivity with other woman in similar situations. The Fairy Godmother Program brought me a new social circle where I can feel good about myself. It has been encouraging and has motivated me to grow in life.”
Zoya adds that Kayla is always there for her as a constant support; Kayla has connected Zoya with scholarships throughout university, has been there to offer encouragement when Zoya doubts herself, and she always believes in Zoya’s ability to accomplish her goals.
“When either of us accomplishes something, we are inspired by each other. We love to celebrate each other! And Kayla buys me beautiful matching dresses, desserts, and food.”
Since starting with TPS, Zoya has graduated from the University of Saskatchewan with a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology and a certificate in Criminology and Addictions. Her goal now is to become a police officer because she wants to be a positive figure in her community, representing women and diversity from within the force.
She also plans to be part of The Princess Shop for many years.
“I see myself as part of this organization for years to come. I want to support it so it can continue to help girls like myself, and I want to watch its impact continue to grow.”
K+S Potash Canada has been proud to help assist The Princess Shop as they champion young women across Saskatchewan and provide them with access to the tools and mentorship they need to realize their goals and become leaders in our community.