dsc05019-bThe empowering message of iChoose made its impact felt this morning at One Tree Hill College in the Auckland suburb of Penrose. One Tree Hill is a co-educational, secondary school that takes its name from a local historical landmark where stands an obelisk above the grave of Sir John Logan Campbell (1817–1912), “the father of modern Auckland.”

As the iChoose program began, 350 students quickly became engaged in the action and dialogue, lending strong vocal support for and reactions to the iChoose stance against bullying as well as its vital theme of respect of self and others.

dsc05248-bPrior to the performance, school counselors and teachers used the assembly as an opportunity to make students aware that they have resources in both the school staff as well as in their fellow students to deal with issues related to bullying and violence they may encounter in their environment. During the show, the students were asked to raise their hands if they had ever been the victim of racism (a form of passive violence). To what seemed everyone’s great surprise, almost all the students simultaneously raised their hands, a poignant demonstration that no one group is immune to racism.

Among the One Tree Hill College students who viewed today’s iChoose program, the following comments were heard:
003-day3pix-b• “I learned not to bully. If you do, it can come back to you.”
• “I liked it—it gave us an idea of what we can do if we are in a situation of bullying.”
• “Don’t fight. Respect others’ culture.”
• “[I liked] that it was live.”
• “I learned not to be a bully and to do your best . . . and be proud of yourself and believe in who you are.”
• “I learned that one way to avoid racism is to respect yourself and also respect others.”
• “Your strength is not in your fist . . . it is in your heart.”
• “[I liked] that the actors shared their own stories.”
• “I liked the songs and the dance. =D ”
• “It is always best to consider other people’s feelings before doing or saying something.”
• “You can feel the drama.”
• “It almost made me cry because it was so amazing.”
• “I, personally, was very shocked by the stories. It gave me the feeling of what being bullied felt like.”
• “I like the motto of the show and [that] it tells us how solve problem without violence or suicide.”
• “Everybody has a reason for why they do what they do—even bullies.”
• “[I learned] not to hide my depression and to express it in a creative way, etc.”

dsc05148-bLater in the day, the iChoose team traveled over to Auckland’s De La Salle College. De La Salle is a Catholic boys high school that strives to cultivate each student to graduate as “a man of faith, of community, of excellence, and of service.” The school takes its name from St. John Baptist De la Salle (1651–1719), a recognized pioneer in the history of Western education who introduced the concept of teaching students in age-classes and groups as well as insisting that students be taught in their native language.

De La Salle was a site of particular significance to some of the iChoose cast members, as they are former students. The performance here, then, provided a convenient and welcome opportunity for the younger family members of these alumni to attend. Exuberantly engaged throughout the performance, the De La Salle audience was profoundly moved when cast members offered heartfelt encouragement to friends, family, and brothers of their alma mater to empower them to more properly respond to both passive and active violence.

dsc05209-bSome of the comments from De La Salle College students include:
• “[We are] learning to think about what we say and [about] respect.”
• “The stories they told touched my heart.”
•  “[I am learning about the importance of] standing up for yourself and others.”
• “It made me think about the choices I make in life.”
• “It was very good; made me think about violence and respect to people.”
• “[I learned] to not mock others.”
ICAP thanks Stewart Clayton for his contributions to this article.