Education doesn't stop at the classroom door, which is why many schools are designing their common spaces - like hallways and outside areas - to aid in learning and the development of social skills.

But for Calgary's Manmeet Singh Bhullar Elementary School, budget constraints and other priorities at the three-year-old school meant that development of the common spaces had to wait.

While many schools have long-established fundraising programs that could help cover the cost, being a new school mostly serving new Canadians, the Manmeet Singh Bhullar school was a step behind.

Enter local Desjardins Agent Paramjit Plaha. She delivered a $4,000 Desjardins GoodSpark donation to kickstart fundraising for the school's commons space.

"I was thrilled to be able to help," she says. "This is a very special school, named after a former Alberta cabinet minister who was hit by a truck and killed when he stopped to help a stranded motorist. Many of the students at the school are new to Canada and will benefit from the full school experience."

Plaha says that well-designed common spaces can encourage students' creativity, collaboration and learning.

"The common and outside spaces at the school are where a lot of the interactions happen between the students. It's important that the spaces make them feel relaxed and comfortable to encourage their social and physical development. The end goal is to help every student achieve their potential."

Achieving potential was also the goal the behind the $4,000 GoodSpark donation presented by another Desjardins Agent, George Rappos of Newmarket, ON, to Girls Inc. of York Region. The organization complements the school experience, as its mission states, by "empowering girls to reach their full potential through gender specific programming that inspire all girls to be strong, smart and bold."

As the father of a teenage daughter and a long-time coach of girls' competitive hockey, Rappos is sensitive to the challenges girls and young women face in society, including issues related to self-esteem, body image, bullying and peer pressure.

But why Girls Inc.?

"It's a non-profit organization that helps equip girls with the skills to navigate the economic, gender and social barriers and to grow up as independent successful individuals," he explains. "It is one of the longest continuously operating organizations offering girls-only programs. Girls Inc. was started more than 150 years ago, and the York Region chapter dates back to the 70s, so it has a proven track record."

Girls Inc. of York Region Executive Director Barb Wallace says the organization offers a range of programs that encourage confidence and involvement in sports, science and technology studies, media literacy, leadership skills, economic literacy and understanding the potential negative impacts of peer pressure.

"Our objective is to provide girls with the knowledge and confidence to make good decisions and to succeed in life," she notes.

The donations to Girls Inc. and to the Manmeet Singh Bhullar School are both part of an initiative announced late last year by Desjardins Insurance. Under that Desjardins GoodSpark Community Grants Program, more than $271,000 in grants were presented to 76 community organizations in Alberta, Ontario and New Brunswick.

Each of the grants included a donation from a local Desjardins Agent. The Agents were invited to nominate organizations that are important to them and their communities.

All told, the Desjardins Agents donated over $73,000 of the $271,300 total.

This was the second year that Desjardins Insurance and the exclusive Desjardins Agent Network have teamed up to support Canadian communities. In 2018, a total of $190,000 was given to community initiatives in the three provinces where Desjardins Insurance Agent offices are located.

For journalists only: Joe Daly
905-306-3900 ext. 5515305