'I've had people say, ‘you saved my life'
Bible Hill teenagers Emily McInnis and Brandin Arsenault are proud of how successful Operation Unfriend Bullying (OUB) has been. The web-based organization is celebrating its first anniversary and is reaching out to more schools and community events. Monique Chiasson - Truro Daily News
BIBLE HILL - Brandin Arsenault can't believe what a difference a year makes.
It was late October 2011 that he and friend Emily McInnis created the web-based Operation Unfriend Bullying (OUB) to encourage young people to share their experiences about bullying. Both Arsenault, a Grade 9 Bible Hill junior high student, and McInnis, a Grade 8 student at Redcliff Middle School, have been bullied in person and online.
With more than 2.5 million website hits, the Bible Hill teenagers are convinced they are making a difference.
"I didn't think we'd have 2.5 million hits in 10 years. We had 10,000 hits the first week and it amazes me we've talked to 1,000 students in schools, camps and events," said Arsenault. "I've had people say, ‘you saved my life.'"
The creation of OUB has also helped McInnis deal with continued bullying that she's faced.
"Before I'd sit in a corner and cry. Now I'll tell the principal about bullying," she said.
The duo is also making headway with the Chignecto-Central Regional School Board and some area schools. They have made OUB presentations at Redcliff and Bible Hill junior high and will make a presentation at Truro junior next week. And after almost a year of trying, they believe a collaboration with the school board is about to happen.
"We will do a presentation with them and it will help us get into more schools. It's a huge step," said Arsenault.
And while most schools have encouraged OUB's efforts, Aresenault said Hilden elementary refused to let the teens make a presentation, presumably based on their age.
"Someone told me they were apprehensive knowing I was a junior high student," Arsenault said. "I'm tired of being told I can't because I'm a student. From the compliments, emails and messages I have received from students and individuals, they think we are doing a great thing ... and students want someone they can relate to."
"We're the best people to present," added McInnis. "Adults don't have the personal stories to share like we do."
Bible Hill Junior High School and Cobequid Educational Centre would not speak with the Truro Daily News yesterday regarding their views of student presentations on bullying.
Donna Spacek, principal of Truro junior high, confirmed OUB will be at the school next week for a presentation.
Debbie Buott-Matheson, spokeswoman of the school board, said CCRSB "supports student-led presentations ... in all of our schools. We believe our students are talented, insightful and inspiring."
She added, "the decision to let any presenter address students is the decision of the school principal. Every presenter is vetted carefully to try and ensure that the message they are bringing to students is relevant and, most importantly, appropriate."
What: Operation Unfriend Bullying, a website organization dedicated to antibullying, offering resources, help and a place to share stories and ideas.
The website includes: Stories, a question section, lesson plans, contact opportunities, including Sykpe, a calendar for community events and bookings and more.
Goal: OUB is pending charitable status with the government of Canada
Awards received: Justice minister's award for Leadership in Crime Prevention, recognition by the provincial and federal government and one from Truro Bible Hill MLA Lenore Zann for the creation of the website.
One-year anniversary event: At Slate Youth Centre on Prince Street on Oct. 21 from 1 to 3:30 p.m. It will include trivia on bullying, presentations, refreshments and is open to all. Donations will go towards running the website and community presentations.