Lake City secondary school student Cade Enns sees the things he learned at a bullying workshop this week being meaningful for the entire community of Williams Lake.
“The workshop gave me inspiration to do things at my school and others schools,” the Grade 7 Enns said. “I just want to inspire other people to have a great community. I can see it going out and helping people everywhere.”
Facilitators Michael Lorsch and Amanda Wand are with the Toronto-based organization Me to We.
They developed the bullying program because whenever Lorsch and Wand were conducting leadership workshops, youth were asking about bullying and if they had any programs.
“We eventually crafted a program that really looked at bullying and that’s the one we ran here – it’s called Stand Up,” Lorsch said.
Grade 12 student Robbie Jacques learned some leadership tools and said this will be his first year being involved with leadership in his school.
“I think it’s interesting how it’s more about self-esteem and the actual individual than it is about the bully,” Jacques said.
Echoing Jacques, Grade 12 student Annie Blois suggested bullying is all around.
“Because it’s in our world, and we can’t take it out of our world, we have to encourage people because bullies are the most insecure,” Blois said. People who are being bullied need encouragement too, she added.
It’s Grade 11 student Cassidy Landry’s first year doing leadership in the school and after taking the workshop said she’s excited to make a difference.
“I’ve been wanting to do this for a while, but this is the first year that I’m actually putting myself out there to do this,” Landry said.
One of the biggest challenges will be the bullying taking place already because of the new school configuration, she said.
“There’s always been that hate between the two schools and I think that should just leave.”
Grade 11 student Stephanie Warnock, also tackling leadership for the first year, has witnessed bullying.
“I’ve watched it, I’ve been there,” she said.
For Grade 9 student Carrie Lange, the first few weeks of school have displayed some tension because students are trying to determine different groups at the Carson campus, which is predominantly grades 7 through 9.
Lange said she looks forward to creating positive impacts from what she gleaned during the two days.
“I want to try and get everyone involved in the school and try and get rid of all that mean stuff that I don’t want to see around.”
Seerat Gidda has been bullied racially and through social media and knows what it feels like.
“I want to prevent that from happening to other people because I don’t want other people to feel that way,” Gidda said.
At the end of the workshop Lorsch told participants the students had set the tone right.
The stop in Williams Lake was the launch of a month-long tour of the Me to We workshop in schools around B.C.
Lorsch and Wand said the group in Williams Lake was incredible and some of the “top” students that they’ve ever worked with.
“They were so engaged and so interested, there wasn’t any point in time when someone wasn’t listening and paying attention,” Wand said. “They truly want to make a difference, you could tell from the get go.”
School district fully behind ERASE program
The Safe Schools branch of the Ministry of Education has been promoting the ERASE (Expect Respect and a Safe Education) program for the past two years. Stand Up was offered as a pilot project to interested school districts to provide a student focused approach to address the issue of bullying that complements the ERASE strategy that all schools in all school districts are currently working on, said Jan Fichtner, District Vice Principal for Healthy Schools and Healthy Students.
“In the upcoming year SD #27 will be hosting a second regional training session for the ERASE program and SD #28 Quesnel and SD #49 Bella Coola will be joining us,” Fichtner said.
Experienced presenters will be facilitating a three-day workshop and providing information and resources to representatives from all elementary and secondary schools, First Nations and Independent Schools as well as community partners including RCMP, MCFD and Child and Youth Mental Health.
Additionally, schools will be continuing to work on refining protocols and strategies to build a positive, safe and inclusive school culture.
Jan Fichtner, District Vice Principal for Healthy Schools and Healthy Students, said bullying is always a topic of concern for staff, students and parents.
“We recognize the need to develop a safe and supportive school culture where we raise the awareness and lower the risk and frequency of bullying in schools.”
But rather than just focusing on bullying, the district works on the broader and more positive perspective of working together to learn to build healthy relationships, manage conflict effectively and empowering youth with skills in communication, teamwork and advocacy for each other.
“Our goal — to build a positive, safe and inclusive school community,” Fichner said.