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École Woodward Hill educator to mentor teen girls at Dream It Be It Girls Conference

michelle-anderson.jpgMichelle Anderson, an education assistant at École Woodward Hill Elementary and soon-to-be teacher, is one of the mentors at this year's Dream It Be It Girls Conference by Soroptimist International of White Rock, taking place at Kwantlen Polytechnic University's Surrey campus this Saturday, Feb. 10. (submitted photo)

A longtime Surrey Schools education assistant turned teacher is sharing the story of her career path at this weekend’s Dream It Be It Girls Conference in hopes of inspiring teenage girls to pursue their dreams.

Michelle Anderson, who has worked as an EA with École Woodward Hill Elementary for the past 15 years, is one of this year’s mentors at the Soroptimist International of White Rock Dream It Be It Girls Conference on Saturday, Feb. 10. The conference is a free career planning event for 15-19 year olds who identify as women, transgender and non-binary, and offers interactive workshops, engaging speakers and activities to inspire girls to pursue their passions and achieve their goals.

Anderson is fulfilling her own dream of becoming a teacher, with some help from the Soroptimists. The organization supports and empowers women and girls through mentorship, education, fundraising and scholarships.

“I’ve always wanted to go back to school to get my teaching degree, but being a single mom is very tough financially,” she said. “My parents both passed away in 2015 and 2017 – it was very hard to lose both parents at the same time, but with the inheritance that they left me, I was able to put that aside and put it towards furthering my education.”

In 2019, Anderson began work on her teaching degree from Thompson Rivers University. Today, her degree is almost complete as she finishes up the Professional Linking Program at Simon Fraser University, well on her way to becoming a licensed elementary teacher this April.

Still, the process of earning a degree over the past four years has been costly – that’s where the Soroptomists come in.

“Trying to make ends meet and having to do the teacher program, I had to take a leave of absence for four months to do my practicum so I had no income coming in. I started looking for scholarships and came across Soroptimists and really fell in love with their view of empowering women to go back to work, and I wanted to share my story with them.

“They had a scholarship for women returning to the workforce, so I applied for it and I won.”

As her story resonated with the organization, Anderson has gone from scholarship recipient to mentor, and she is offering to share her story with teens in hopes it resonates with them, too. She wants students to learn from her story, both in finding careers that interest them early on, but also that they can always change course later in life.

“I wanted to pay it forward, I want to advocate for women to return to the workforce and empower young girls to look for careers that are well-paying so that they can support themselves and not have to go through what I did,” she said. “I’m also a strong advocate for lifelong learning and it’s never too late to change it up and try something new. Always go after your dreams.

“As many of us, I’ve faced so many adversities and learned how to persevere through things, and I’m just hoping to touch other people’s lives.”

The Dream It Be It Girls Conference takes place this Saturday, Feb. 10, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Kwantlen Polytechnic University’s Surrey campus, 12666 72 Ave.

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