Written by Megan Solberg
Passion. Community. Perseverance. Mentorship. Kayla Brien, a dedicated volunteer for The Princess Shop Mentorship and Female Youth Development Inc., positively lights up when she talks about the work she does with the Saskatoon-based non-profit in pursuit of these values.
The organization’s mission strives to build confidence and create access to tools, resources, and support for young women in our community. By living these values, Kayla says, The Princess Shop empowers these women to work towards their goals and grow into passionate, driven change-makers and leaders in their own lives and in their communities.
Since first volunteering with The Princess Shop in 2012, Kayla has worn many hats in her work with the organization. She initially volunteered with the Glass Slipper Benefit, the organization’s main fundraising event. At the Benefit, she had the opportunity to listen to one woman’s speech of how she came to The Princess Shop. Kayla was deeply inspired by the resiliency she witnessed in that speech and the work the organization was doing; she knew she absolutely needed to commit further to The Princess Shop’s mission. She ended up coordinating the Fairy Godmother Program for the next four years.
“Not everyone starts at the same place in life with the same opportunities,” Kayla says. “Learning to meet people where they’re at with kind words and compassionate hearts is one of the best things you can do for someone. It’s about letting them know that they have someone consistently in their corner because not everyone has that support.”
Kayla has now helped numerous young women find their graduation gowns through the Princess Shop’s Dress Program, an initiative that creates a graduation experience for women who would not otherwise be able to afford a graduation equal to that of their peers.
“Being part of someone’s graduation experience in that way is indescribably special,” Kayla says, her face lighting up once more. “Helping women by showing them how beautiful they are, celebrating their accomplishments, and building their confidence as they move into the next chapter of their lives is incredibly rewarding. The program is really about inclusion, and it’s about letting women know there is a community of support for them to help them face the obstacles in their lives.”
It was through the Dress Program that Kayla met Zoya, whose family had immigrated to Canada from Pakistan when Zoya was in middle school. The two shared an instant bond as they shopped through the hundreds of colourful and sparkly graduation dresses that are donated to the organization each year.
So strong was their immediate connection, Kayla eventually asked Zoya if she could be her match through The Princess Shop’s Fairy Godmother program, a mentorship initiative which helps young women transition after graduation into the next phase of their lives – whether that be furthering their education or other professional pursuits. They have now been friends for five years, and Kayla identifies Zoya as one of the most amazing women she knows. They love to get together for coffee and treats – especially ice cream and desserts. Zoya has just graduated from university, and Kayla remarks on what a privilege it has been to watch Zoya grow from the shy, quiet girl she first met into the confident woman she knows now.
Volunteering with The Princess Shop was a turning point in her life that Kayla never could have seen coming. Her time there has helped her to develop her own confidence and leadership skills – she is now comfortable speaking in front of hundreds of people, which she never had been before – and she strives to be the best role model she can be for the women around her. Being part of such a community-oriented organization and being surrounded regularly by driven, inspiring women motivated her to realize she could pursue her own goals and passions. She often feels as though she has benefited as much as many of the graduates through her work with the organization.
If there is one thing that’s clear when you meet Kayla, it’s that she adamantly believes empowering women transcends generations.
“By supporting women with kindness and understanding,” she says determinedly, “we can set the stage for future generations. Encouraging confidence in women and their abilities to achieve what they want to achieve enables them to live fiercely and passionately. With support and access to the tools they need to succeed, these women are unstoppable.”
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.