Empowering the Bystander

BY C. ABES

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The October 23rd group with Molly Burke.

On October 22 and 23, grade nines from MDHS made the short trip to the Milton Sports Center to attend Empowering the Bystander, an anti-bullying initiative that focuses on how to create and maintain a positive, tolerant environment in our school.

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The activities broke barriers between grade 9s and 12s- including the boundaries of personal space.

Mr. Newman’s grade 12s Living Cultures class acted as leaders during the event, directing different small group activities to break down barriers between the grade 9s. Some of the grade 12s also shared their bystander stories to open up discussion on how bullying can be prevented within schools.

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Molly Burke (bottom row, center), her guide dog Gallop, and MDHS students.

The highlight of the event was when Molly Burke, a motivational speaker who’s presented to crowds as large as 20,000, shared her inspirational story. At age four she was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa, a retinal disease that causes loss of vision. By the age of fourteen, she completely lost her sight, and not only had to battle with bullying from her peers but mental illness as well. Despite the hardships she had faced, Molly persevered and found success as an ambassador with Free the Children. She speaks at events like We Day, hosts her own weekly show, and shares her story in the hopes that she will give others the hope that she had needed.

Here are some reviews of Empowering the Bystander from grade nines that attended:

“I saw the reality of bullying and bystanders because of how many people around me and people I know have been bullied before and how many of them have actually been affected by this.”  Farzaam Zafar

“I felt that Empowering the Bystanders has helped me understand that even if you weren’t the one who bullied the person, you’re just as bad if you stood there and watched it happen. I never realized how important it was to stand up for someone and how it could impact their life.” Jadyn Clarke

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“After going to the empowering the bystander event I learned/realized that many people, if not everybody, has been a bystander at some point in their life, and most regret it.” Lauren Lamers

“Something I learned from the program is that bullying can really have an impact on someone. I never fully understood that it can deeply affect someone. I always thought that you shouldn’t let what say get to you but when they constantly make fun of you it gets to you sometimes.” Sydney Lee

“The effect of Empowering the Bystander on me was that I learned new things about how people are being bullied. I learned that a lot of people get bullied all through school. I thought it was really cool having Molly Burke speak to everyone and tell us her story. I think that Empowering the Bystander was a successful trip.” Shawn Haynes

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“Empowering the Bystander made me really think of how I treat my friends, family and romantic partner. It made me want to change my behaviour, since I can be very rude or harsh sometimes, and I’m watching how I treat people now. Molly Burke was very touching, and I hope that the grade 9s next year get to enjoy her presentation because every student I have talked to said that they enjoyed Molly Burke. Empowering the Bystander is a very powerful and effective day trip and I highly recommend you continue to have this event every year for the freshmen at MDHS.” Maija Shea

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