Build­ing a Com­mu­nity

BRHS hosts SAVE con­fer­ence; stu­dents work to­gether and learn about vi­o­lence

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The sched­ule at Bridgetown Re­gional High School was a lit­tle dif­fer­ent than usual on Wed­nes­day, May 10.

In­stead of reg­u­lar classes, stu­dents par­tic­i­pated in the unique and un­prece­dented SAVE con­fer­ence (Stu­dents As­sist­ing in Vi­o­lence Ed­u­ca­tion).

SAVE day is an event that had been in the mak­ing for over a year, and was started when Patricia Corn­wall of Schools Plus, and RCMP Com­mu­nity Pro­gram Of­fi­cer Ro­dena Re­naud ap­plied for a grant from the RCMP Fam­ily Vi­o­lence Ini­tia­tive Fund in May 2016. To­gether, they man­aged to pro­cure $12,000 for their idea of a stu­dent con­fer­ence, and from this, SAVE was born.

The con­fer­ence opened with a school-wide assem­bly, where ev­ery­one was wel­comed and given an over­view of the day. Next, older stu­dents re­mained in the gym to watch a doc­u­men­tary pro­duced by Emily Lindin in sup­port of her project to com­bat sex­ual vi­o­lence against high school girls. The doc­u­men­tary high­lighted is­sues close to home for Nova Sco­tians by fo­cus­ing on the Re­htaeh Par­sons case.

Di­verse Pre­sen­ters

All stu­dents were then sent to their pre­vi­ously cho­sen ses­sions. Dozens of guest speak­ers were there to talk to stu­dents, and teach them about the ser­vices of­fered in Nova Sco­tia that fight against vi­o­lence ev­ery day.

“There’s such a di­verse range of pre­sen­ters, from peo­ple that work to pre­vent vi­o­lence, who work to in­ves­ti­gate vi­o­lence, and then work with vic­tims of vi­o­lence. I think that’s pretty ex­tra­or­di­nary,” said Corn­wall. Not only this, but all pre­sen­ters were cho­sen by the SAVE stu­dent ad­vi­sory com­mit­tee, which met dur­ing lunches through­out the school year to pro­vide stu­dent feed­back for the SAVE or­ga­niz­ers.

Ask­ing Ques­tions

Some, but not all, of the work­shops of­fered were: Build­ing Safe In­clu­sive En­vi­ron­ments; Firearms and Risk; Healthy In­ti­mate Re­la­tion­ships; Re­sources for Men­tal Health and Well­ness; Know the Risk: Sub­stance Use and Vi­o­lence; and So­cial Me­dia, Cy­ber­bul­ly­ing, and the Law were.

Abby Beals at­tended the men­tal health work­shop, and de­scribed what she liked best about it.

“I think just the open­ness of it,” she said. “She just let us share our thoughts on what we thought men­tal health was, and our ques­tions, and our per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ences. It was a safe place to talk.”

Of­fi­cer Dena (as Re­naud is known to the kids) no­ticed this open­ness as well.

“I’ve been around to ev­ery class­room, and the kids are ac­tively ask­ing ques­tions,” she said. “That’s a great sign. They’re will­ing to put their hand up and ask ques­tions that are tough to put your­self out there to ask.”

Af­ter lunch, an ‘Amazing Race’ chal­lenge was or­ga­nized and put on by At­lantic Youth, team­ing up stu­dents rang­ing from Grades 6 to 12, and al­low­ing stu­dents a unique chance to work to­gether and in­ter­act.

Bridgetown’s Po­ten­tial

Both Corn­wall and Re­naud have hopes that this day will serve as a launch pad for cre­at­ing a culture of safety and ac­cep­tance as stu­dents move on to the new BRCS build­ing next year.

“What in­spired me re­ally is that the kids have a brand new school next year, and I re­ally want stu­dents to put some thought into how they can cre­ate a safe school pol­icy, so hope­fully they come away to­day with some strate­gies and re­sources in their back pocket of what they can do. Youth driven,” said Re­naud.

Ru­ral Com­mu­nity

Mylène Dipenta and Krista Mac­don­ald were rep­re­sent­ing the Val­ley Youth Project, an or­ga­ni­za­tion that sup­ports LGBTQ youth in our sur­round­ing area. Mylène be­lieves that be­ing from a ru­ral com­mu­nity shouldn’t hold us back.

“There’s a huge amount of cre­ative po­ten­tial for build­ing stronger com­mu­ni­ties, build­ing safer com­mu­ni­ties, and build­ing more in­clu­sive com­mu­ni­ties in a small town en­vi­ron­ment, where of­ten peo­ple know each other, and care about each other. So that’s not al­ways a down­side,” Dipenta said.

SAVE day ended on a high note with an­other school wide assem­bly, to con­grat­u­late ev­ery­one in­volved on a suc­cess­ful and pos­i­tive day. The SAVE con­fer­ence made clear, more than any­thing, that with the ground-break­ing ini­tia­tives, com­mu­nity sup­port, and stu­dent in­volve­ment present through­out Bridgetown and the Val­ley, some­thing more im­por­tant than just a new school is be­ing built. To­gether, we’re build­ing a bet­ter com­mu­nity to go into it.

Part of the Stu­dents As­sist­ing in Vi­o­lence Ed­u­ca­tion con­fer­ence at Bridgetown Re­gional High School May 10 was their very own Amazing Race chal­lenge that got stu­dents from Grades 6 to 12 work­ing to­gether.

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