North York Mirror
The Grade 3 St. Bernard Catholic School students sat attentively on the gymnasium floor, glued to the anti-bullying message brought by members of the leadership class at Chaminade College School.
The presentation at the Jane Street and Lawrence Avenue school Tuesday, Dec. 4 was held in partnership with Louise Russo’s Working Against Violence Everyday (W.A.V.E) program, which centres around the principles of respect, responsibility and role of leadership in reducing violence in schools and communities.
Russo, an innocent bystander inside California Sandwiches at Sheppard Avenue and Chesswood Drive, was left paralyzed in 2004 after a bullet from a botched mob hit entered her spine.
With a breathing exercise kicking off the workshop, students were asked to describe how they would feel if no one greeted them that week or showed acts of kindness.
They were then asked to use words to describe physical, verbal/emotional and cyber bullying, which were then written on large pieces of paper taped to the wall.
A short video shot by the high school students highlighting various forms of bullying was played, with younger students encouraged to yell out “stop!” when they spotted bullying to help identify that behaviour when it happens.
S.T.O.P - which stands for Speak up, Time out, Open up and Peace – is a central part of the W.A.V.E program.
After taking a pledge to stop bullying and create a safe school environment, students then wrote their names on paper hands to be placed in the hallway and completed a word search with an anti-bullying message. They then received W.A.V.E youth ambassador certificates in recognition of completing the program.
Nicolas Gaspar, one of the program’s presenters, said youth teaching youth helps get the message across that much better.
The Grade 11 student, who was a victim of bullying in elementary school, stressed the importance of instilling the anti-bullying message in youngsters.
“I think everyone at some point in their lives was affected by bullying or was a bystander to bullying,” he said.
Chaminade teacher Nadia Pasquini said the goal of the program is to empower students.
“It’s best to target when they are young,” she said, adding the program will have been brought to nine elementary schools by week’s end.
Russo, who attended the presentation, said she’s always looking for ways for young people to become more involved in their communities.
“The older ones become mentors to the younger ones,” she said.
St. Bernard principal Claudio Bevilacqua said there is much to be learned from the older students.
“It’s great to see high school students coming back,” he said. “Some of them are former students. I welcome these types of opportunities. The (high school) students are showing leadership and are involved in a positive way in their community.”