Entering its fifth year, Bisons Against Bullying is an ambitious student-led initiative that is organized and executed by Bison Sports and the University of Manitoba Athletes Council. The council consists of representatives from each Bison sport team and is an effective way for athletes to represent themselves and get their voices heard collectively. Each school year athletes visit local schools to promote an anti-bulling message.
Last year there were 50 athletes who volunteered their time to attend a workshop training them to perform the anti-bullying presentations. These presentations are aimed at students in grades 4-7 and, to date, over 100 Winnipeg schools have been visited. This means that over 5000 young students have been the recipients of the anti-bullying messages.
Student athletes discuss with the younger students what bullying is, who gets bullied and why, and what can be done in a bullying situation. Meaghan Woo, who is a member of the U of M Athletes Council, the co-coordinator of the Bisons Against Bullying program and the co-captain of Bison track and field, has had very positive experiences with the Bisons Against Bullying program. She recalls that “in all the presentations I have been part of, the children all seem very responsive to the material our student athletes have presented to them. It’s a really great feeling seeing the children getting excited about preventing bullying in their schools. Bullying is a major problem in and out of schools and I feel that many children who are bullies do not even realize that they would be considered a bully. Bringing awareness to the children about what bullying is and how to prevent it may hopefully reduce many problems related to bullying for the children in our school systems.”
After student athletes do their initial presentations at schools, a follow-up visit is subsequently arranged to underscore the importance of the anti-bullying message and also to assess the effectiveness of the campaign. Woo also emphasized the importance of athletes taking responsibility as mentors: “I feel it is very important for student athletes to volunteer through the Bisons Against Bullying program. As student athletes, we are great role models for younger children whether we believe it or not. Younger children really look up to Bison athletes and I believe it to be a responsibility of Bison athletes to be a good role model for these young children.” This is an attitude that surely contributes to the success of the Bisons Against Bullying program.
In addition to being responsible role models, student athletes receive valuable volunteer experience with the initiative and are rewarded knowing that they are making positive contributions to society. Woo explains: “the university gives us great opportunities to compete at the CIS level. Many of us are on scholarships that help pay for our educations, and I feel that volunteering as a Bison Against Bullying is the least we can do to give back to our communities.”
Obviously an enriching experience for both the presenters and the recipients of the anti-bullying campaign, it is heartening to know that as the new school year begins, even more young students will receive the positive Bisons Against Bullying messages.