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Supporting leadership through mentorship: SNAP Girls Speakers Bureau launches

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L-R: Kiri Etzkorn, Christina Gray, Kulbinder Saran, Stephanie Palens, Morgan Cardozo, Bianca Harris, Anita McKernan and Isabel Teotonio joined the SNAP Girls Leaders in Training for their first Speakers Bureau event.

Even if it might take me a little longer, I know I can accomplish my dreams,” reflects a 12-year-old participant in CDI’s SNAP (Stop Now And Plan) Girls Youth Leadership Group highlighting some of the lessons learned during the group’s first ever Speakers Bureau session.

On a Tuesday evening in March, the SNAP Girls Youth Leadership group switched up their usual evening program to host eight very special guests: women at various stages in their respective careers. While each has followed different paths—from corporate law to event planning—the life lessons they shared with the group had many similarities.

Several of the panellists struggled with academics when they were in school, and some have coped with anxiety and depression throughout their lives. They talked with the girls about the effort they’ve put into building confidence in themselves and practicing good self-care.

“Trusting myself and finding confidence have been big barriers,” says Kiri Etzkorn, an actor, singer and songwriter. “I’ve learned that the clearer your goals are, and the more research you do, the more confident you’ll be going forward.”

L-R: Bianca Harris, Founder and CEO of WIPP (Women Inspiring Passion and Purpose); and Kulbinder Saran, Film Producer, participated in one-on-one speed interviews with the girls.

Through the group discussion and one-on-one question and answer sessions with each of the panelists, the girls had the opportunity to ask in-depth questions and soak up the wisdom and positivity of this esteemed group.

“Our girls face challenges at home and at school,” says Erin Rajca, Manager of the SNAP Girls and Anxiety Programs at Child Development Institute. “Hearing examples of how these women have learned to cope with learning disabilities, difficulties at school and mental health challenges while pursuing meaningful careers has struck a powerful chord with the group.”

This panel is just one of the many activities the girls participate in each week as part of the program’s focus on leadership. “We cover topics that are important to the girls, like volunteerism, community safety, healthy relationships, anti-oppression, intersectional feminism and assertive communication,” says Faisa Mohamud, the group’s program facilitator.

CDI launched SNAP Girls in 1996 as the first-ever sustained, gender-specific program for behaviourally troubled girls and their families. Developed using the award-winning SNAP model, the program incorporates a feminist lens to recognize gender differences. The program components are similar to the SNAP Boys program, but there are important differences based on research and best practices for treating girl aggression, including a greater emphasis on communication and relationship-building.

To learn more about SNAP Girls, visit our website.


  • Morgan Cardozo, Event Specialist, Oliver & Bonacini Events
  • Kiri Etzkorn, Actor/Singer/Songwriter
  • Christina Gray, Human Rights Lawyer
  • Bianca Harris, Founder and CEO of WIPP (Women Inspiring Passion and Purpose) Toronto and make-up artist
  • Anita McKernan, Corporate Lawyer
  • Stephanie Palens, HR Coordinator, CIBC
  • Kulbinder Saran, Film Producer
  • Isabel Teotonio, Reporter