Langley Fundamental is Langley’s first school to participate in an innovative after school program that teaches inner beauty and self-confidence to “tweenage” girls.
BeaYOUtiful, which has been running in Surrey schools for three years, is about creating healthy lifestyles and relationships, said founder Taylor Hui, 20, a professional model and communications student at Simon Fraser University.
“We really focus on the concept of self-love, which is learning to love yourself first and appreciate your unique traits and your special attributes and embrace them,” Hui said.
“In doing that, and learning to love who you are, you can pass that on to others and see others for their true beauty.”
Hui came up with the concept when she was in Grade 11, and launched the program while she was in Grade 12. Targeting girls ages 10 to 13, Hui says she created the curriculum through her own personal experiences.
“In high school, a lot of my friends had self esteem issues, eating disorders and really tore people down to lift themselves up,” she said.
“I thought, ‘what a backwards way for society to think like that.’ I ended up being bullied a lot, and I realized a lot of it stemmed from girls not having that confidence and being insecure. And that can stem from so many things, whether it’s parental support or their friends influencing them negatively.”
Working with a team of mentors, each class in the six-week program focuses on a different aspect of healthy living. The girls have done Zumba lessons, raw beauty photo shoots, art therapy, healthy eating workshops and dream board building.
“We usually do 10 to 15 girls maximum because we find that having this close circle builds a really big sister friendship and the girls are willing to open up more,” Hui said.
“And our mentors are a young age, they range between 16 to 24. We do that specifically because we know the girls will open up on a completely different level. We’re not there to be a teacher or a councillor or a parent — it’s really a sister friendship.
“It’s crazy, but a lot of these girls just want someone to talk to.”
In her experience, Hui says a lot of the self-esteem issues emanate from social media.
“I think, a lot of times, people start sourcing out what they like in other people, which is great — finding beauty in others is amazing — but I think that has to start from yourself first, and then you can pass it on to others,” she said.
“For so many of these girls, when they wake up in the morning the first thing they do is go on Instagram. They’re lying in bed and they’re looking at these people who are going out and achieving things, or have a certain type of body or are in a tropical place. Automatically these lifestyle comparisons start happening. That can be a really negative way to start your day if it’s not inspiring thoughts of encouragement.”
So far, the impact on the students has been amazing, Hui said.
“I have had girls that have come in to the class and have refused to speak and could barely say their name out loud because they were too intimidated, and they walk out by the end of it with a whole new personality — it’s transformed,” she said.
“They have a new sense of confidence and belonging. The girls, too, really changed their perspective on others, I find. They are a lot more welcoming and more inclusive and respectful of others.
“I definitely see transformations, and I wouldn’t be continuing it if I didn’t.”
Feedback from the girls themselves has also been encouraging.
“It’s an amazing program,” said Christina Constantinou, a Grade 7 student at Langley Fundamental.
“I love that whenever you feel insecure about something, they’ll go around in a circle and tell you what they really like about you.
“I also really like how they want us to be ourselves. They want us to be loud and crazy and how we are in front of other people.”
Stefanie Robb, also a Grade 7 student, said she is sad to see the classes finish so quickly.
“I didn’t know what it was going to be like, and then I tried the first class, and I loved it so much,” she said.
“I love that you have people to talk to and that you get to do different activities each week.”
With the first sessions in Langley now complete, Hui is meeting with the Langley School District in January to see what other schools could benefit from BeaYOUtiful.
Those who are interested can also request the program at their school through the website, www.foreverbeayoutiful.com.
Photo: Taylor Hui, founder of BeaYOUtiful. Photo credit: Miranda GATHERCOLE/Langley Times