StandUp with Westo – The Power of Positive Role Models

Positive role models can play a crucial part in inspiring young people to combat bullying in schools. Leigh Community Trust in partnership with Leigh Centurions Rugby League Team have wholeheartedly embraced this concept. Currently reaching out to schools in the North West, the StandUp with Westo project is supported by The Ben Cohen StandUp Foundation. Using story-telling, in a comic book form, Centurions prop Dayne Weston takes the anti-bullying message to youngsters, making it easy for everyone to get involved.

Through a series of group discussions StandUp with Westo helps young people identify emotions associated with bullying. Not only are they encouraged to look at things from the point of view of the person being bullied, but also from the point of view of the bully. This approach gives the young people the tools to know how to act should they ever find themselves exposed to the effects of bullying.

“I have never bullied anyone and never been bullied but now I know what to do if I do get bullied at high school when I go next year.” Chloe, aged 10

A series of comic strips, featuring Dayne, tells stories that draw real-world emotions into an accessible narrative. The comic book format is the perfect way to get the message across to young people – through this format the concepts are made more accessible and the students increasingly open to the anti-bullying messaging.

Dayne is featured prominently in the stories and this association strengthens the attachment felt by those taking part. Seeing that someone like Dayne can be affected by bullying is a powerful way of getting people to sit up and take notice. The StandUp with Westo campaign is proving really popular. Having been delivered to nearly 800 8-10 years olds across 21 schools, there is currently a waiting list of schools wanting to take part in the project.

“To have Dayne involved in the programme has been a really enjoyable experience and has really helped keep the children engaged and learning.” Mrs Lee, Leigh Central Primary

As well as going out into the local community, the Club has welcomed young people with open arms into their home ground. They have held three StandUp with Westo celebration events at the LSV Stadium attended by over 140 young people. As well as meeting the Leigh players, they had the opportunity to put their questions to them to find out about their approach to teamwork and respect.

“My son has been part of the StandUp with Westo programme and I would just like to thank you for all that you have done for him. He has had problems with certain children in the school. However, after being visited by Dayne, things in school are a lot better and the child in question has stopped bullying my son and even asked to be friends.”

Sometimes young people just need to be made aware of the impact of their actions. A gentle word from someone they look up to and respect is all that is needed to change an attitude and a lifetime of consequences.

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