By Sean Meyer/London Community News
The Crime Stoppers Annual Student Symposium might way have been a horticultural event as there were many people looking to plant seeds.
The 12th annual symposium, held Friday (Oct. 27) at the Thames Valley District School Board (TVDSB) office, is promote as an exchange of ideas and information pertaining to crime trends and educations tips on how Crime Stoppers can help make schools safer places. Over 100 Grade 9-10 students and teachers from TVDSB and the London and District Catholic School Board, came together for the symposium, which also included members of the London Police Service, the RCMP London Detachment, representatives of the Elgin and Middlesex OPP detachments and — naturally — officials from Crime Stoppers.
Staff Sgt. Steve Arthur, from RCMP London detachment, said was excited for the opportunity to take part in the event. In addition to sharing with the students the role of the RCMP, and also offering up a bit of a recruiting message, Arthur said events like the symposium can often provide unexpected benefits.
“Realistically, and maybe I am a little utopian, I hope we can plant a seed that when they (students) get into a situation they will pause and reflect on whether this is a good idea. Ask themselves if this will affect the next five minutes, five hours, or five months,” Arthur said. “It doesn’t take much to plant that seed. You never know when you are going to touch someone’s life. Sometimes, there is just that something there that makes person realize they have options, they can change the track they are on.
Al Gibson, board chairman London-Elgin-Middlesex Crime Stoppers said the annual symposium is designed to share relevant information with students and teachers on not only the Crime Stoppers program, and local high school versions of the initiative, but issues such as bullying and personal safety.
Most importantly, Gibson said, the hope is these students will take what they have learned and share it with the classmates back home at their individual schools.
“They have the right to a safe school, but with that is also the responsibility for them to step up and call people on their actions. We hope to give them tools today to help them do that,” Gibson said. “We want to assure them we are with them, behind them, and willing to help them in every way we can.”
That is exactly what Sarah Rossoni hopes comes from the symposium. Rossoni, a teacher at Regina Mundi Catholic College, agreed with Arthurs’ seed-planting analogy, saying attendance by these students is just a first step in creating change.
“I think all you need to do is plan the seed. Hopefully that seed can grow into something more fruitful at the school level, at the board level,” Rossoni said. “A lot of these kids are on student councils. A lot of them can take these ideas back and help find ways for everyone to enjoy their high school experience.”
The idea of keeping schools safe was a key to many symposium participants, including Gibson and Rossoni. London Police Chief Brad Duncan was another participant and said he hopes social media can help spread more positive messages as well.
The chief also said the symposium’s success can often be linked to the passions and sense of responsibility that is felt by many of the student participants.
“With social media the way it is I am sure there are students who will be Tweeting and Facebooking it right in the audience. And that is a good way to get our message out,” Duncan said. “We have seen results, we have seen tips come in from high schools about certain activities. If you can prevent that from coming into your high school it is great for us and great for the school environment.”
Aija, 14, is one of the people officials are hoping will spread the message on helping build safer schools. A student at Strathroy District Collegiate Institute, Aija said her own interest in pursuing policing as a career was her main motivation for coming out to the symposium.
However, she also immediately recognized she has a role to play when it comes to helping make her school a safer place.
“I’m not really sure what I am going to take away. Hopefully, I will get more information about what Crime Stoppers is about, the kinds of things going on in the London area,” Aija said. “You hear commercials all the time, if you have information, call Crime Stoppers, but you don’t really know what it is all about. This will help give us all more information, which we can all then take back to our schools.”