By Stephen Dafoe
Morinville – St. Jean Baptiste Park be will illuminated next Friday night as residents come together to make a statement about bullying. The anti-bullying candlelight vigil is the idea of MCHS Grade 11 student Travis Loseth who started a Facebook page for the event some weeks back and has been seeking community support ever since.
“Facebook went crazy when I first put the invitation up but has since slowed down a bit,” Loseth said. “There is strength in numbers so I want many people young and old to attend.”
Loseth said the candlelight vigil itself will take about a half an hour; however, other elements are planned for the overall event to raise awareness and create community fellowship.
“We are going to read some statistics about bullying,” he explained. “We are also inviting other people to read poems, sing songs, or speak from their hearts about their experiences. The Youth in Action groups have been planning to do some carolling and so we invited them to join us after the vigil. Everyone attending is invited to join in the carolling.”
Bullying is an issue that is at the forefront in Morinville and area schools. Loseth’s Facebook events page indicates one in every four youth will be bullied at some point in their school career. It is a subject Loseth is passionate about.
“I have always believed that bullying is wrong,” he said. “Fortunately, I haven’t been a direct victim of it, but I have had friends and family who have been bullied, and have heard many stories on the news about youth committing suicide due to bullying. I’m hoping that my vigil will bring attention to the problem so that the victims of bullying can see that there is support in our community for them.”
The high school student said the words we choose in speaking to someone can have a profound effect on youth. “Words can shake someone’s confidence or limit their belief in themselves,” Loseth said. “Most times people are unaware of how hurtful their words can be. Negative words often lead to physical bullying which is just as disrespectful. Victims of bullying often feel that it’s their fault and that they did something to deserve it. That is what the bullies want. They want to have the power. When we choose words that are helpful and encouraging we build up people and encourage their greatness.”
Loseth believes everyone can help combat bullying, and that it is up to everyone to stop bullying. “Everyone can speak up when they see someone being bullied,” he said. “They can let the victims know that there is support for them whether it is a friend, teacher, co-worker and family members. Everyone, regardless of age, can vow to do their best and be the friend not the bully.”
He feels so strongly about the power of people to fight bullying that he is asking attendees to next Friday night’s candlelight vigil to sign a pledge card indicating they believe that everyone should be able to enjoy their school equally, feel safe, secure, and accepted regardless of ethnicity, gender, popularity, athletic ability, intelligence, religion or nationality.
The anti-bullying candlelight vigil takes place Dec. 16 at 6:30 p.m. at St. Jean Baptiste Park. The event’s Facebook page can be accessed by clicking here.