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article imageHuddle Up Bullying Prevention Program tackles bullying in Toronto Special

By KJ Mullins     Jan 18, 2012 in World
Toronto - On the playing field the Toronto Agronauts tackle their opponents but off the field players are working to stop violence and bullying in area schools.
Bullying is a problem that seems to get worse each year. Today students don't just have to deal with bullies on the playground- there's the internet world where bullies taunt too.
The Huddle Up program has players go straight to the source to fight bullies with school assemblies. Argos reps give members of Huddle Up Student Committees the keys to empower themselves when promoting bully prevention messages in their schools. A team of ten students, including student leaders, bullies and their victims take part in the assemblies with staff advisors who have guidelines to help them.
Huddle Up Bullying Prevention Program event last night in Toronto
Huddle Up Bullying Prevention Program event last night in Toronto
Scott Mills
Students involved with the program perform a presentation that carries the important message that victims and bystanders can make a difference when it comes to bullying before negative actions happen. An Argos player also speaks to the students about their own experiences and how those experiences have shaped them.
Each school that signs up for the Huddle Up Program gets key information about stopping bullying in their schools along with promo posters and Huddle Up Committee T-Shirts. Also in the mix are tickets to a pre-season Toronto Argonauts Home Game. The program also has nights at schools where parents can learn about bullying prevention. Getting parents involved is an important step.
Last night Jason Colero, community relations manager for the Argos, along with Scott Mills, the Social Media Advisor for Crime Stoppers International, were in a Mississauga school speaking to parents about the issue of bullying and how to use social media to prevent bullying.
Scott Mills is a pioneer when it comes to using social media for good. His work with Crime Stoppers International is world renown. He explained to the parents that their kids are using smart phones and social media. Parents need to not only understand the media forms but know how to protect their children's security and privacy in this new world. Mills said that he has helped out at these parent sessions in the past as part of the Huddle Up Bullying Prevention program.
"When Jason calls I go. It's an amazing program that really helps with the prevention of bullying and Jason is a master of what he does. He's been part of this program for years and is making a huge impact for good. Jason's message of how bystanders can be part of the solution is one that has to be heard," Mills said during an interview. "We can use social media as a way to prevent bullying and to empower kids to be safe. As the social media officer of Crime Stoppers International I educate the public on how social media can lead to success and safety. I also help educate schools using social media for success for their schools."
Huddle Up Bullying Prevention Program event last night in Toronto
Huddle Up Bullying Prevention Program event last night in Toronto
Scott Mills
"You have to embrace social media and use it for sending out a message for good," Colero echoed last night at Castlemore Public School.
Jason understands what it's like to be bullied. He was a victim for much of his childhood. He says that in Grade 9 a bystander literally saved his life.
"A bystander stepped up when no one else would. He told the bullies to back off. That act saved my life. I had been thinking about suicide but that one bystander let me know that I was valued," Jason said during a telephone interview. When it comes to bullying bystanders too often look the other way, "It's almost like its no one's problem until everyone is involved." That said Huddle Up doesn't want those bystanders to be in danger and show the kids safe ways to combat bullying.
Eleven years ago when Jason pitched the Huddle Up program he knew that the need to prevent bullying was a timely one and one that would always be needed. The program that he helped create builds a community within the schools before the Argos even walk through the doors. Each school in the program focuses on the issues that are within their own school.
"Different schools have different problems when it comes to bullying. Some schools face more issues with cyber bullying for instance. The Huddle Up Committees at each school allows those students involved to say what their school really needs. It allows the kids to have the voice," Jason explained.
The program does cost money. Many of the schools or school boards pay the cost but for schools who can't afford it Huddle Up helps them find donors.
"We don't turn down any school. These schools value the program so much. Maybe even more so because it isn't a free one," said Jason.
In May all of the schools involved will round up the year with the HUDDLE UP COMMITTEE SUMMIT. Everyone involved in the program joins together to come up with solutions.
"Everyone has a role in this issue," Colero said. "Tim Hortons is just one example. Instead of just donating money store owners come to the event and help make a difference in these kids lives."
Huddle Up Bullying Prevention Program event last night in Toronto
Huddle Up Bullying Prevention Program event last night in Toronto
Scott Mills
The program is a success. Jason spoke about just one incident that let him know that Huddle Up is making a difference.
"After an assembly one boy took a letter to the guidance department at his school and asked them to forward it to me. I opened up this sealed letter and read how this boy had been bullied when he was younger and was now a bully himself. The boy wrote that after hearing my story he was going to change and stop being a bully," Jason stopped for a moment before adding, "When we reach one kid we are a success."
Huddle Up has reached many more than one child. They are making a huge difference in the lives of kids in the Greater Toronto Area with a simple message one school at a time, bullying is not allowed in our school.
More about Huddle Up Bullying Prevention Program, Bullying, Toronto
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