Building a Community
BRHS hosts SAVE conference; students work together and learn about violence
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.