THUNDER BAY – Olivia Paradis says the message she took from Everyone Matters Day is that everyone has a purpose in life.
That’s why it’s important to recognize and celebrate people’s differences, not ostracize and bully them because they’re not the same as everyone else, the Grade 6 Claude E. Garton Public School student said.
The youngster on Wednesday joined 300 other students from four Lakehead Public schools at Redwood Park Church, where through music, art and real-life experience learned about why it’s important to follow the golden rule.
It’s a fun way to learn, she said.
“Some people, they get presentations at school, but don’t really understand what it’s all about. Here there are actually people who have actually experienced it,” Olivia said.
Fourteen-year-old Aiden Fisher, a Grade 8 student at Ogden Community Public School, admitted he wasn’t thrilled at the idea of spending the day learning why everyone matters, but listening to the music of Thunder Bay rapper Benjamin Murray helped form a new perspective.
Murray’s song told the story of how the country’s Indigenous peoples had their culture torn away, words that struck a chord with Aiden.
Schools are filled with bullies and something needs to be done, he said.
“Every day kids just get picked on and that’s not fair. They do this to teach kids that you can be different,” he said.
The message will stick, he believes, though he’s not naïve enough to think it will stop bullying in its tracks. But it’s a start, he said.
“I believe that some kids here will see other bullies and they’ll try to put a stop to it,” Aiden said. “They’ll get the message here and they’ll stick up for people who are getting picked on.”
That’s the idea behind Everyone Matters Day, which in its third year in Thunder Bay expanded beyond the classroom, said Jeff Upton, the education officer at Lakehead Public Schools who also serves as chair of the city’s Crime Prevention Council.
“In past years we’ve gone to certain schools and held assemblies. But this year we wanted to up what we were doing. We’ve invited four schools to this venue and we’ve made it a workshop and conference-type of event,” Upton said.
“We wanted a professional event for the kids, so as they work on learning more about issues around anti-bullying and how to stop bullying in their schools and in our communities, that our workshop presenters will help them.”
Other presenters included Thunder Bay Police, high school and elementary students and Taylorpedia, who discussed her anti-bullying initiatives.