At a Crossroads: Harneet's Story
Effervescent is the best word we can find to describe Harneet. As she sits down with us and settles into conversation, she bubbles over with energy, is quick to crack a joke, and her infectious laughter is always just below the surface.
“A few years ago, a friend of mine mentioned that she was going to this after-school martial arts club where she would also get free food,” she remembers with a smile. “It sounded like a good deal to me, so I showed up the next week.”
And, while Harneet did get to learn martial arts and did get fed, she realized quickly that her experience at Yo Bro | Yo Girl was about much more than just that.
“At first going to YBYG was just about being on the mats doing martial arts,” she remembers. “But then it became about the family. Now, the people I count on the most in life are right here - they’re my brothers and my sisters - they’re people I look up to and some who look up to me.”
And, through life’s trials, Harneet learned - the family you choose is just as important as the one you’re given at birth.
When Harneet’s brother passed away unexpectedly a few years ago, her life flipped upside down. She needed a family to turn to - to grieve with, to be herself with, and to recover with. The friends she had made at YBYG stepped up as family and made sure she made it through intact.
“In an instant, I could have gone off the radar,” she remembers. “It would’ve been easy for me to disappear and walk away. But my family here at YBYG wouldn’t let me do that - they wouldn’t let me fall - they carried me through this.”
As she reflects on how her experience at YBYG has kept her out of harm’s way she reflects on the freedom and trust the team gives the youth.
“A lot of other organizations come into our schools and tell us the statistics about what’s going on in our community and then they tell us not to make bad decisions,” she says. “Here at YBYG, we understand the reality on the streets, are urged to be careful and use good judgement, but then we also have the freedom to decide for ourselves.”
“And, even better, because you have a community of people you like spending time with always around, there’s a lot of space to make smart, safe and fun choices about how we’re spending our time.”
She pauses and looks up with a grin.
“Why would I want to be anywhere else?”
Know Means No
Harneet has participated in the YBYG program, Know Means No.
Know Means No is an in-school, girls-only education program that helps youth understand more about what healthy relationships look like. Taught by Yo Bro | Yo Girl mentors and law enforcement volunteers, young women learn about the different kinds of relationships that exist in the world, the factors that put them at risk in relationships, as well as how to build healthy and respectful relationships that have boundaries.
Through a combination of hands-on workshops for students in everything from violence prevention to self-defense, students learn how to identify risky relationships as well as how to maintain boundaries, control emotions, project confidence and de-escalate tense situations.