From flash mobs to freezie sales, the Philanthropy club at Spectrum Community School has gone the extra mile to fight stigma this year. The Victoria high school was the first school to start working towards their Stigma-Free Zone designation in fall 2017, and their dynamic, passionate team of students and teachers has coordinated initiatives and events to promote Stigma-Free culture and anti-stigma education. Tom Gordon, a teacher and Spectrum and one of the coordinators of the Philanthropy Club, told me about the evolution of the group and their Stigma-Free Zone aspirations for the school.
The club was initially an expansion of the grade 12 social justice course, made up of students seeking volunteer involvement with the greater community. Wanting to promote diverse involvement and interest, they re-branded themselves as the Philanthropy Club. While discussing what sort of community initiatives they could take on as a club, one student was keen to connect them with Andrea Paquette, President of the Stigma-Free Society, who they knew through previous community involvement. The Philanthropy Club then organized a lived-experience mental health presentation (the first criteria of Stigma-Free Zone designation) with Stigma-Free Community Manager Robyn Thomas, who spoke to a group of classes in the fall.
Both staff and students were impressed by Robyn’s powerful story, and the impact of her presentation was widespread. The Philanthropy Club then proceeded to sign a Stigma-Free banner, committing to the movement with their principal, students and Mr. Gordon on board. The club plans to maintain the banner signing as an annual event, continually adding the names of those students and staff who pledge to live stigma-free.
The Philanthropy Club established an action plan for the school year, designating specific months to target a variety of types of stigmas through initiatives and events. In February, for example, the club focused on gender identity and sexuality, and in March, racial stigma.
In May, the group is working on ageism. They are now stimulating an interactive school discussion on age, featuring some of their younger teachers in the conversation.
Later this month, the Philanthropy Club hopes to host a discussion featuring student and staff experiences with Anxiety and Depression to talk about intergenerational relations to mental health. Though the club is winding down for the school year, Tom and the students are excited at prospects for Stigma-Free advocacy in the fall. They hope to host a larger scale fundraising event and recruit more student leaders to their cause to facilitate initiatives and events.
Stigma-Free Society could not be more proud of the Spectrum Philanthropy Club (soon to be known as the Stigma-Free Club) and their hard work towards Stigma-Free Zone designation. We look forward to presenting staff and students with their Stigma-Free Zone plaque at a ceremony in September.
Please feel free to watch Spectrum Community School’s Stigma-Free Flash Mob HERE!
Blog written by: Katie Clarke, Community Outreach Assistant/Intern, Stigma-Free Society