Students brainstorm solutions in wake of Harley’s death

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Nancy Kelly
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A group of students at Berwick and District School gathered around vice-principal Cindy Dickie during a Jan. 15 discussion session held to tackle a variety of societal issues that surfaced within the community after the death of Harley Lawrence last October. - Submitted

A group of students at Berwick and District School took part in a Jan. 15 discussion session focused on ways they can address discrimination and other social issues in their community. 

The session was hosted partly as a response to the Oct. 23 death of Harley Lawrence in a Berwick bus shelter fire. A joint venture between the Berwick, the county and the school, it offered an opportunity for the group of 13 Grade 6 and 7 students to share their thoughts on the tragedy and issues of poverty, mental health, homelessness and discrimination, based on differences that surfaced after Lawrence’s death.

Read more coverage from Lawrence's death. 

“It was probably one of the best community development meetings I have been part of,” said Julie Glaser, Berwick’s director of community development. With the help of graphic facilitator Corrie Melanson, participants shared their reactions to Lawrence’s life and passing, noting that they were at times frightened about the rumours surrounding the man’s death, which is still under investigation by the RCMP’s South West Nova Major Crimes Unit. 

“They said they felt unsafe, responsible and were ashamed of their community,” said Glaser, who sensed students welcomed the chance to voice their concerns about the incident.

Berwick School vice-principal Cindy Dickie said Lawrence’s death was “an emotionally-charged issue” for the school community. 

“Berwick is small town, and everyone, including kids, had seen or had some personal experience with him. As educators, we bear responsibility to help (students) process this type of event,” said Dickie.

She anticipates the session will serve as the beginning of a process for the school community in creating a legacy of positive social change.

“Ultimately, it is about creating good stewards of the community,” Dickie said.

Students’ suggestions for positive change included stepping in when someone needs help, not spreading rumours and becoming more involved in community volunteerism, especially to support those in need. In-school sharing opportunities are now being planned and some of the students will present at a public session being planned by Glaser for Feb. 17.

Organizations: Berwick School, RCMP

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