Empathy NDSS: Surviving High School With Heart

Surviving high school is one of the greatest challenges of growing up. Amongst a diverse and complex group of peers, teenagers are discovering who they are and what they want their future to look like. The walls of a high school witness children becoming young adults. With this transition comes first loves, first heartbreaks, countless friendships and frustrations. Students gradually gain the social and intellectual knowledge to trace a path of interests, relationships and ambitions that will take them on the first steps to the rest of their lives. Unfortunately, the five years spent in high schools are often rife with struggle: malicious rumors, lying friends, dangerous experimentation, negative stereotypes, the list is endless. Bullying is playing a far too influential role on the lives of students. How does an individual, a school, or a community strive to lessen the impact?

“Empathy goes hand in hand with compassion and without empathy, our society would have a complete lack of compassion. Compassion is the driving force behind the willingness to see from the perspective of others and thus help them.” Rachel Fritz, gr. 11, member of Empathy NDSS

Founded by an outstanding group of my peers who were inspired last fall by the GRASP training (Growth Resiliency Acknowledgement Suicide Awareness Prevention and Planning) offered by the Vancouver Island Crisis Line, Empathy is changing NDSS to ensure that each and every student is valued equally. Empathy seeks to provide a secure and confidential environment within our school in which our peers can feel free to confide any worries and trust that we will do our best to provide mentoring, advice or just an empathetic ear. Empathy tries to welcome new students into the school and make sure their transition and their time at NDSS is peaceful and happy. We also seek to extend our influence to other schools and have made presentations to a variety of elementary schools within the district. Some may find that a fellow peer can relate easier to their difficulties than an adult- Empathy is simply a group of students who are themselves experiencing the diverse challenges faced in high school and want to help. Anyone and everyone is welcome with open arms and we are always overjoyed if a new student comes to a meeting, (Wednesdays at lunch for you NDSS readers!) helps out in any way or wants a private word.

“Empathy is a group of students who are trying to promote communication and anti-bullying skills as well as give students a safe place to talk.” Maggie Hinbest, gr. 11, member of Empathy NDSS

High school can often reflect the ugly side of our society: discrimination, stereotypes and bullying flourish all too much, destroying and taking precious lives from us. In modern high schools, the rumors, name-calling and cruelty can be acted out behind the anonymity of a computer screen or cell phone. The hardships that students often suffer can have destructive effects that cause lifelong pain. It is too often believed that changing and eventually eliminating bullying within schools is nearly impossible to actualize, but through my participation in Empathy, it has become evident that with determination, passion and an open mind, it can happen. I am proud to be part of a strong group of individuals who are fighting to put an end to senseless abuse. Empathy NDSS has given me an opportunity to be optimistic that there is an end to bullying.

By Isabella