Don't be a bystander

From peer groups to safe schools, to stopping bullying teens are teaming up to pass along these messages to younger students.

Through the program Beyond the Hurt, Rutland Secondary School students spend an afternoon inside the classrooms of Springvalley Middle School to create a healthy safe space.

Trained by the Red Cross as part of the Respect Education program, leadership students take a two day course where they learn everything from public speaking, to group facilitation, and combating nerves before they speak to their younger peers.

Kate Armitage is one of the youth facilitators at RSS, she says she joined in Grade 10 after learning about the Beyond the Hurt program during a wellness fair.

“I signed up and it grew from there,” she said. “I started doing the presentations. I started by watching, but I would have never presented before this. I am super shy.”

During Armitage’s presentations at schools, she tries to deliver the message to students they are not alone and they can rely on her as a mentor and as a friend.

“If you’re getting bullied, or you're a bystander, or even if you’re the bully, we want to help you out. It’s about mutual respect and love, and we can help you, and you can help yourself by education yourself,” explained Armitage.

RSS counsellor Cindy Rhodes helps lead the Beyond the Hurt program at the school and accompanied 20 the students during Tuesday afternoon’s facilitator session.

“They are taught there is the target, there is the bully and then there is the bystander,” she said of the messages her students are sending. “If they are a bystander then they can make a difference and they can step up.”

About 500 youth facilitators are trained in B.C. each year who will go on to reach 40,000 other students in schools across the province.

Megan Toal works with the Red Cross, and trains the youth facilitators for their roles as mentors.

“They are being trained on the issues when it comes to healthy peer relationships, focusing on safe inclusive schools, and what does this mean,” Toal explained. “They learn about power and the role of power in peer dynamics, they learn different forms of bullying behaviour, and then most importantly they learn about the interventions. So, how do we be change makers on this and how do we support.”

The program Beyond the hurt started back in 2003 and recently Rutland Secondary youth facilitators were recognized for their leadership by the Red Cross thanks to their work with peer to peer education

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