Even if you don’t know someone, you can still help them.
That was the message Domanic Charlie-Francis delivered to the ERASE Bullying Forum Feb. 28 in Surrey. He was one of five student speakers on the panel, representing his own school, Agassiz Centre for Education. Of the five speakers chosen from across the province, he was the sole student from an alternate program.
He spoke passionately about bullying to the packed crowd at Surrey’s Ecole Panorama. It was a crowd that included Premier Christy Clark, Education minister Peter Fassbender and Travis Price, the co-founder of Pink Shirt Day.
“It was really nerve-wracking. I knew there was going to be a lot of people there,” Charlie-Francis said. On the bus that morning, heading in with the rest of the ACE students, administrator Sandy Balascak turned to Charlie-Francis and told him the premier would be there.
“My jaw dropped and my eyes opened so big,” he said. “I said ‘no, you didn’t tell me that!'”
Clark, Charlie-Francis and the rest of the panel sat in the middle of the gym, while the 650 attendees formed a circle around them. Charlie-Francis was the third speaker, delivering a powerful speech that is still drawing attention from those who were there.
“No one should feel like they can’t talk to anyone,” he said. “No one should feel like they have nobody that they can trust and to help them, especially at school.
“Youth can play the big brother role in the school and/or community to make or to try, to the best of their ability, to help a friend or even just an acquaintance with any concerns or problems that they may have,” he told the crowd. “You don’t have to be best friends or even know anything about them to help someone. Everyone needs help at some point in their life and to show somebody that you care, it could really mean a lot to them.”
While he went into the event nervous, the second he finished his speech he was beside himself.
“After I was done, I felt like i was on top of the world,” he said. “I was so happy, I couldn’t even concentrate. That made me feel really good, everyone was clapping, everyone was giving me high fives.”
Charlie-Francis will now be interviewed by the ministry of education, and the results of that interview will eventually be available on the ministry website.
It’s all been an honour he was surprised to have bestowed upon him.
“I was really surprised that I got picked because I go to an alternate school,” he said.
To read what people are saying about the ERASE Bullying forum on Twitter, search the term #ERASEforum. To watch video of the event, visit ACE’s website.