Shane Berg has always looked up to his older brother.
“He always loved to joke around and tell funny stories at home and he loved hanging out with his friends,” said Berg.
“He always seemed like a positive, upbeat person. He had the character to hold his own, from my perspective, that’s what it always seemed.”
It wasn’t until last year that Berg discovered that his brother was bullied in high school.
“It was definitely a blow to me. He was one of my role models, so to find out that he had been through something like that was a real blow.”
Last year Berg, along with roughly 30 other students at Smithers Secondary, decided to take a stand against bullying and formed the student-run group Stand Up as part of the Erase Bullying campaign.
“We felt that bullying was definitely a problem, maybe not directly in everyone’s eyes. But in every school, there’s bound to be bullying,” said the Grade 12 student.
Earlier this year, Berg was contacted by a group called Me to We and was invited to facilitate group sessions in Prince George around bullying initiatives in northern B.C. schools.
Roughly 350 students from the region attended the seminars on Jan. 16 to share videos and action plans that they’ve implemented in their schools.
It also allowed Berg and seven other Smithers Secondary students to share several initiatives they organized last year.
One of their most popular plans included handing out coloured hand-crafted bracelets to students who exhibited positive qualities, such as respect, passion and individuality.
“By the end of the year, bullying wasn’t as prominent,” said Berg. “I think it helped.”
Perry Rath, a teacher advisor with the high school’s Gay Straight Alliance, said the program has played a role in decreasing bullying against the LGBTQ community at school as well.
“It’s important to have groups around to be visible about [bullying],” said Rath.
“It made the idea of bullying more visible, making people aware of the subtle facets that bullying exists in, making people just check their behaviours and just making people accountable for the things they do.”
However, since the new school year started, many students who spearheaded the program have graduated or changed schools, leaving the future of the program in question.
“We definitely want to put a new energy into it,” said Berg, adding they are also organizing a school assembly to re-introduce students to the program.
“That’s the double-edged thing about student-led groups,” said Rath. “Shane’s an amazing kid. This year that group did kind of lose some energy.”
Although Berg noted he will be taking a step back from the program to focus on his studies, he said he will continue to contribute ideas and be someone that students can talk to about their experiences.