Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Aspiring to be Ambassadors of Change

The following guest blog was written by Brandon MacDougall, a grade 11 student from Cole Harbour High. Brandon visited the Mount in early July as part of a winning team from this year’s Accelerating Empathy conference, an event powered by The Empathy Factory that brought together high school students from across Nova Scotia to discuss and respond to several key issues facing youth today. As part of their prize package, members of his team, Scotia Circle, met with Mount faculty and student leaders to discuss and strategize ways to tackle bullying in our schools.
We were proud to sponsor this year’s Accelerating Empathy conference, and delighted to welcome Brandon and his team member Sandrico Provo to the Mount to discuss the many ways Nova Scotia’s youth are taking the lead in making a real difference in the world.
Aspiring to be Ambassadors of Change
Brandon MacDougall

Bullying, depression and anxiety are not things you can simply solve. Yet I think as a human being, I have a responsibility to do everything in my power to make my community a more harmonious place to be. I didn’t have to go to The Empathy Factory conference three days after having my wisdom teeth out. I didn’t have to write a pitch on how to solve bullying for the 40-minute bus drive there. I guess what I am saying is that nobody sat me down and said I had to care about bullying or any social issue, I just do because it matters.
The Empathy Factory organized a conference called Accelerating Empathy. This is an amazing opportunity for youth to formulate ideas and find some internal empathy to share externally. There were four social issues we could choose to address in our pitch. I chose bullying.
My pitch was done using a form of poetry, and was voted as one of the top two in the subject of bullying. I then recruited a team for a bigger pitch the next day that would be judged by some experts in the various fields of social issues. We performed another poetic pitch, and were chosen to be the top idea for solving bullying. The idea was sort of simple - we would start creative expression groups at schools and hold yearly spoken word and rap competitions themed on things related to anti-bullying.
(Photo L-R: Sandrico Provo, Dr. Ramona Lumpkin,
and myself - Brandon MacDougall, at a recent
visit at Mount Saint Vincent University.
The most important thing I discovered since that day is that if you keep moving forward, regardless of the opportunities you might have missed before, eventually you will find one in a moment that will make the difference you needed. This happened at Mount Saint Vincent University.

We met with a number of wonderful individuals during the day, including the Mount's President, Ramona Lumpkin, student representatives, and three informative and supportive Professors.

We had talks about how school systems can tend to contribute to the issue, how blame can be often be misplaced and how it is so important and much more effective for youth to lead prevention initiatives.

What the Mount really showed me was that there are people who care deeply about these issues. Most significantly though, every single person I met really listened to what I was saying and thus was able to provide me with greater insights and ideas to help move things forward.

To be honest, when arriving at the Mount, I was still unsure if my ideas would ever be able to surmount some of the problems youth face or if I could even find a way to bring it to life. When leaving the Mount, there was no longer an “is this possible?” in my head, only a “when”.

Great ideas will flourish when mobilized by people of great care and empathy. I strongly believe this will one day be proof of that. Look out for “Scotia Circle” in the future, “Where nobody can be cornered.”

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