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Serving Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam, Port Moody, Anmore and Belcarra since 1984 FRIDAY November 9, 2012 15 The story of Leslie Ellis is a remarkable account of bravery and survival. Your source for local news, sports, opinion and entertainment: Maple Creek students help their peers Since anti-bullying program began two years ago, school officials have noted fewer serious incidents Jeremy Deutsch Every week, Shireen Foroghi and Adam Foster don their red T-shirts with pride and enthusiasm. The Grade 8 Maple Creek Middle students in Port Coquitlam do so as part of a group of kids taking part in a unique program to curb bullying in their school. Shireen and Adam are peer mediators. Essentially, each student volunteers one day a week to walk the hallways and school grounds during break and lunch looking to help kids who may be feeling harassed or lonely. “I hate it when I see people getting bullied, so I try to help in any way possible,” Adam told The NOW. The school has 40 peer mediators in grades 7 and 8, who have all received special training to help support kids being bullied. They are carefully handpicked for their leadership potential, empathy and caring. About 80 students each year sign up to be mediators. Eight mediators are deployed for each day of the school week. Adam’s shift is a Friday, while Shireen works the Monday. Shireen said she noticed a lot of kids in the school were having trouble connecting with others and were sad and lonely, so she wanted to help. “That’s why we’re here, to help them get used to people talking to them and get used to sharing their problems,” she said, noting it was her first year in the role. Both students have their own personal experience with bullying. Shireen was bullied in Grade 6 when she arrived in middle school, while Adam was teased about his weight when he was younger. Both kids want to make sure the younger students coming up in the school don’t experience the same treatment they received. It’s important to note the mediators aren’t hall monitors looking to tattle on another student for an infraction. The students are there to mediate social conflict situations or to help kids engage in a social situation. That could be as simple as hanging out with the bullied student, or introducing them to school activities. But if the students do spot a situation outside of their abilities to handle, they discreetly tell the school counsellor, who can take over. Adam pointed out some of his fellow students don’t care much for the mediators, while some don’t want the help. Lisa King/NOW Adam Foster and Shireen Foroghi are peer mediators at Maple Creek Middle School, helping students who are being harassed. However, he added many of the kids to whom they reach out come back the next day seeking a mediator. The school’s counsellor, Harriette Chang, is behind the program. She was looking for some type of conflictresolution strategy for her students. More specifically, she was looking for a more sophisticated version of what is being taught to younger kids when it comes to bullying and conflict. Younger kids are taught the acronym WITS, which encourages kids to walk away, ignore, talk it out and seek help. So Chang discovered a new five-step program called LEADS, an acronym that encourages students to look and listen, explore other points of view, act, did it work?, and seek help. She is quick to point out the peer mediator initiative is just part of the overall LEADS and bullying strategy in the school. LEADS provides students with strategies to deal with conflict — which includes role playing various social situations — while the school is active in encouraging its kids to get involved in a myriad of programs and clubs being offered. So far, the initiative has worked. School officials note a steady decline in the number of office referrals and incidents for serious issues in the two years since LEADS was introduced. “If we can empower kids to be leaders amongst themselves, we’re going to be way ahead of the game,” Chang said. The school board in Prince George recently took an interest in Maple Creek’s success, implementing a similar LEADS program in that school district. Maple Creek principal Bill Trask is also firmly behind the program, attributing much of the decrease in bullying to LEADS. “It’s real life problems and real life ways of solving it,” he said, noting the program teaches Give a Sylvan BOOST to your child’s report card. 604.941.9166 | COQUITLAM READING COMPREHENSION ( *&)# ( $!")"'% students tough adult skills and common sense. Though both educators acknowledge the program may not completely stop bullying and harassment at the school, they suggest the steps taken through LEADS have helped foster a culture of caring and respect in the halls. Chang also believes peer mediation works because it empowers the students to be leaders. “We find kids listen to their peers sometimes more than they do adults,” she said. It also gives the mediators a sense of satisfaction that they’ve helped out someone in need. For Shireen and Adam, who patrol the halls each week, they’re also convinced their efforts are helping make the school a better place. And as they get set to move on to the even bigger and more dramatic confines of high school, the two students would like to see a similar program implemented at their next educational stop.

Coquitlam Now November 9 2012

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