Alderman kicks off bullying awareness program
By: Matt Durnan
| Posted: Thursday, Feb 06, 2014 11:23 am
Alderman Darrell Belyk has launched a brand new bullying awareness program that he will be bringing to schools and community groups around Airdrie.
Belyk has been a proponent for bullying awareness for some time, and it was a leading issue on his platform during his campaign in last October’s municipal election when he was elected for the first time.
As a child, Belyk had his own experiences with bullying which has helped him gain an understanding and empathy for children who are victims.
“Between grades three and six I dealt with a lot from other kids in my school,” said Belyk, who was left with physical difficulties on the right side of his body after suffering a stroke.
“Kids would imitate the way that I walked and made fun of me. I want to help kids who may be dealing with similar things and having bitter feelings about it and show them and encourage them to confront this and talk about it so that they can live more full and happy lives.”
His eagerness to spread the word about bullying and educate Airdrie’s youth on the subject gained a lot of steam around the holidays in 2013 when he attended a pair of events focused on local youth, and has culminated in the creation of the program that will kick off on Feb. 20 at Good Shepherd School.
“Everything really started picking up close to Christmas time,” said Belyk. “I was invited to the D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) graduation at Ralph McCall and I attended a meeting for Airdrie’s youth council on Dec. 10, 2013 at City Hall and one of the biggest issues that these kids are talking about is bullying.”
Belyk reached out to Airdrie RCMP Resource Officer Cst. Jason Curtis to assist in putting the program in place and getting to as many schools as possible.
“Cst. Curtis is already in a lot of the schools around the city so he has been speaking to principals and teachers and setting up presentation dates for us,” said Belyk.
The program focuses on victim-proofing and how children can handle situations where they might encounter a bully, according to Belyk.
Belyk said he wants the program to be an open dialogue between the presenters and audience, rather than seem like a lecture.
“I’m hoping that we can get a lot of audience participation and make the program really interactive,” said Belyk.
One major part of the program, is an exercise where students will be tasked with creating a short story or a picture related to bullying.
The pictures and stories will be posted around the school and Belyk and Curtis will choose four or five of them, with the students who penned the pieces being given a chance to arm wrestle the alderman who is also a former national arm wrestling champion.
Community groups like Brownies and Scouts are on Belyk’s list of organizations that he’s hoping to present to, and for the time being he’s looking to keep his audience young.
“Right now, we’re looking at just the elementary schools,” he said. “Perhaps when the program grows and gains momentum we’ll get in to the high schools, but with the older students it’s a little more difficult to steer them, so we want to start out with the younger age groups.”
The alderman created a Facebook page on Jan. 28 to promote the program, and it garnered more than 90 likes in just two days.
“We want to get the word out there as much as possible,” said Belyk. “The more people we can get on board with it, the more the program will grow and evolve.”
You can find out more about the program by searching, “Airdrie Bullying Awareness Program” on Facebook.