Standing next to a red dress in memory of Chantel John, a 28-year-old Indigenous woman who was killed in Conne River earlier this year, Exploits Valley High student Hilaree Glavine spoke to the need of recognizing the violence that is happening around them.
The Grade 12 Grand Falls-Windsor student is part of the school’s leadership program – Teens Talking to Teens – which brought forward its violence awareness message, Wednesday, Feb. 27, during an assembly that addressed the entire school population of approximately 550 students.
While they didn’t know John personally, Glavine said her death on Jan. 9 has had a lasting impact on every student, teacher and parent throughout the province. John’s ex-boyfriend has been charged with first-degree murder.
Hilaree said they wanted to do something to honour her memory.
“Originally it was going to be a fundraiser but it morphed into an assembly, because we felt we needed have a discussion about violence,” Hilaree said. “Not only about violence against Indigenous women, but the LGBTQ community and other demographics and areas where violence exist as well.”
It’s something students will have to face at some point in their life, she said.
During an exercise, those in attendance were asked six questions pertaining to whether or not they have experienced violence directly or indirectly. Topics included fist fights, physical bullying, family abuse, sexual assault, being called names because of sexual orientation or identity, persecution because of ethnicity, and witnessing physical abuse.
Those who experienced at least one of these things was asked to stand. By the time the last question was asked, every student was standing.
“I think it’s important that people are aware these types of things are happening, because they might not recognize they are in a certain situation, and if they do realize it, that there are solutions,” Hilaree said.
Grade 11 students Andres Cornect and Matthew Taylor, who observed the presentation, agreed violence is something students face.
It’s a message they say that needs to get out.
“It’s something that is kind of normalized through sports and everyday life,” Andres said.
By reasserting that violence is still taking place, he said, it keeps the issue at the forefront.
“It’s a message that needs to get out there so the next generation coming up will be aware of these issues,” said Andres.
Jackie Thompson, executive director for the Status of Women Central, had high praise for the endeavours of the young students.
She was extremely pleased to see violence awareness being tackled by young people.
“It gives us hope that things are changing for the better,” Thompson said.