Catarina Arezes, left, and Erica Sadri collaborated on a spoken word piece they performed at the Give Peace a Dance event March 7 to promote awareness about violence against youth. Photo by Evan Boudreau

Fighting youth violence through creative talents

  • March 14, 2012

TORONTO - Students from Toronto’s Loretto College School and surrounding high schools joined together to Give Peace a Dance.

About 300 people filled Loretto College’s auditorium on March 7 to promote awareness about violence against youth, bask in the talents of students and raise funds for the Plan Canada Because I am a Girl initiative.

“It’s a safe-school campaign against youth violence in and around school communities,” said Paulina Onilla, a youth worker at Loretto College who first organized the event seven years ago. “We invite our fellow schools from different parts of the city to come and join us on the campaign and create awareness that they are their schools and they need to take them back in terms of safety.”

According to the federal government’s public safety web site, in 2004 41 per cent of Grades 4 to 7 students experienced some form of bullying. And a 2007 Statistics Canada report said 16 per cent of students in Grades 7 to 9 experienced bullying 12 or more times during the previous school year. While numbers decreased as this generation of students aged, today’s high schools still contain bullies and Loretto College is no exception.

“Because it’s an all-girls school we do get a lot of bullying, female bullying, cyber-bullying,” said Onilla. “The message is peace and bringing peace back into the schools.”

But it wasn’t just dance that performers used to promote this message. Some sang, others used instruments and two students, Catarina Arezes and Erica Sadri, collaborated on a spoken word piece.

“It is important to show that violence is not key and if we do come together to promote peace it is more positive,” said first-time performer Arezes, who has attended Give Peace a Dance each of her four years at the school. “We tried to write something as if a teen would see it in their eyes because they were our audience.”

The courage, confidence and talent of these two, who were the only act not aided by music, stood out to Plan Canada’s community engagement specialist Sarah Muir.

“Those girls standing up there and doing that for girls around the world is huge,” said Muir. “A lot of girls cannot speak out for themselves. They don’t have the ability to stand in front of a crowd to talk about their rights and if they did they might be ridiculed.”

Plan Canada Because I am a Girl helps aid females living in Third World countries gain access to education, physical safety and human rights. Of the $2,000 generated from ticket sales, about 50 per cent will be donated to this organization.

“It’s not just about the dollars. It’s about getting the word out there,” said Muir.

“It’s great that they raised funds for us, but in general I was thrilled that they supported us in any fashion and that they spread the word about the initiative that we run.”

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