Who is Frank?
Anti-bullying initiative begins with a write-in hosted by MRU’s English Students Society and Bishop Carroll
Main Street looked a lot more pink than usual on Nov. 26, with pink tables and pink balloons, and members of the English Students Society (ESS) handing out pink cupcakes and pink grapefruit juice. This was all a part of “Who’s Frank?”, Mount Royal’s latest collaboration with neighbouring senior high school, Bishop Carroll.
“Who’s Frank?” is a campaign that involves both schools’ commitment to educate on and bring awareness to bullying and putting a stop to bullying behaviours in schools. The campaign focuses on bullying as “the elephant in the room”, something we’re all aware of but don’t necessarily speak up about – a stance brought to life in Frank: the pink elephant mascot for the initiative.
“It’s about being frank about what bullying is and being open to talking about bullying, and that it’s not something we should ignore,” said MacKenzie Horn, a grade 12 student at Bishop Carroll involved in the campaign.
“We have a slogan: ‘It’s not just a day, it’s a way,’ and we’re hoping it will continue on in further years so that the younger generations will be able to participate in this too, and help make it grow,” said Sasha Zoorkan, also from Bishop Carroll.
While it is still important to the campaign to discuss those who are affected by bullying, “Who’s Frank?” doesn’t just discuss the victims. As Bishop Carroll student Aaron Verones comments, “One thing that we’re really focusing on is that it’s not just about the bullied, it’s about the bully and the bystander.”
“The important thing about this campaign is to say, ‘We want to get it out in the open, not just to people who have been bullied, but the ones who have been doing the bullying so they can get remission, and bystanders so they know what to do,’” Verones continued.
“Bishop Carroll and Mount Royal became a [partnership] a year ago, and so as a result of that there’s many things that have come out of our initiative. One is that we offer a university course at Bishop Carroll High School. We also have several initiatives that we’ve started, [like collaborations for] professional development,” said Susan Spellman Cann, head of the Counselling Department at Bishop Carroll.
This partnership has an integral role in the “Who’s Frank?” campaign, because it allows both schools to bridge the gap between high school and university, and come together to speak out against bullying.
“We thought it was important to straddle [the jump] from high school to university,” said Natalie Meisner, creative writing instructor and one of the Mount Royal faculty members involved in the campaign. “A lot of people don’t talk about the issue, or it could get lost in that gap, so we’ve been really inspired to have some great high school students as well as some amazing work from our students here.”
“I love working with the university, mainly because it shows that it’s not that big of a boundary,” Verones added.
To kick off the initiative, Main Street played host to a write-in, where students were encouraged to share their stories of bullying on appropriately pink papers.
“We thought we’d take the sit-ins from the 1970s and kind of take writing out into the public forum,” said Meisner.
“I started to think actually there is something really powerful that I could bring to the table [as a creative writing professor] because what changes your hearts or your minds on this topic is when someone tells you a story about bullying, about how it’s impacted their life,” she continued.
“We want to make sure that these stories are being told, and that people’s events aren’t being ignored. The elephant isn’t just in the room, [not] being recognized. We’re seeing the elephant and now we’re going to talk about that elephant,” said Matatha Barr, third year English student at Mount Royal, and ESS executive.
“When you’re able to write out your feelings, when you’re able to write the events that you’ve been a part of, it kind of allows you to release that. To share it, I think, is a huge thing even if it’s anonymous – just knowing that someone else knows your story,” said Barr.
Everyone involved emphasized that this is only the beginning of the “Who’s Frank?” campaign.
According to Meisner, the stories collected at the write-in will be recorded by professional actors and uploaded to the web. There are also plans to set out “story banks” around both Mount Royal and Bishop Carroll’s campuses to collect even more stories.
“We’re going to make boxes with the graffiti elephant on them ,” she explained, “and we’d like it to go city-wide, and maybe nation-wide if it can, and we’d like to collect the stories in there and we’d like to collect them in an analog way, so that we have that visual representation.”
There are also many upcoming events in the works, including an event in February happening at Bishop Carroll, which will include a keynote speech from Barbara Coloroso, anti-bully author and activist. Coloroso is the author of several parenting books, including The Bully, the Bullied, and the Bystander, a book to help parents and teachers recognize and break the cycle of bullying and violence in schools.
Bishop Carroll is also running a program called Visions of Hope, which utilizes the school’s visual media program to create a campaign that, according to Verones, “[shows] remission from bullying, love for those affected and for those who are bullied.”
“There are many little things that are going to happen along the way,” said Spellman Cann. “As the kids have said, ‘It’s more than a day, it’s a way.’ We don’t want it to be a day where people just stop and think about bullying. We want it to be a way of thinking, and so Mount Royal, Bishop Carroll, we’re gonna work together and come up with several ideas and we’re going to have many things and hopefully continue it on for years to come.
Students are encouraged to continue to share their stories with the campaign.
“People can get in touch with me and give me their stories directly,” said Meisner. “You can drop by [my office] or ask me for the form.”