by MacKenzie MacDonald

Laurentian University’s anti-bullying program, Cool Kids Lead, has completed another successful year and is currently seeking volunteers to help expand their program.

Brandon Schroeder, Cool Kids Lead program coordinator and English major, said that the “whole focus of this program is unique because it’s students who inspire students.”

Schroeder explained that Cool Kids Lead, which was  founded three years ago, began with a simple question: “How can we do something where we can give back to the community, but not at a cost? [A program] that people don’t have to pay for [but] that still impacts youth?”

For Laurentian students who want to give back to their community, acquire some volunteer hours, or simply want to help inspire and change the lives of local youth, Cool Kids Lead is the perfect starting point. It’s a chance to help eradicate bullying and encourage leadership, friendship, and compassion among students.

According to Schroeder, youth programs are a “big thing” at [Laurentian] campus recreation.

“We do a lot of youth programs, so [the question was], how can we do something that will give back to the community and the kids in it?”

This mentality spearheaded Cool Kids Lead, which has grown exponentially in the last two years.

“Its an anti bullying program, but we do it in a different way” said Schroeder. “We do it through phys ed and leadership development [and] we try to turn bullying traits into leadership skills”.

Schroeder explained how the program takes place in the gymnasium of each school as it tends to be a more “inclusive environment”.

“The gym is a safe space in schools” Schroeder said.

“Everyone loves going to the gym, but we don’t really do a lot of sports [activities] in there.  [Instead], we do lots of games that are related to a topic that we talk about every week. Each week is a different focus and a different topic and the games enforce those skills and traits that we talk about”.

Fellow coordinator and third year Sports Administration student, Brittany Reinhardt, said that their first year taking over the program was both amazing and overwhelming.

“Our first year we dove right into it. We got really excited and passionate, and we took on ten schools in one semester. It was a lot for us to do because we didn’t really have a huge team back then. We didn’t have enough volunteers to base off what we were doing right away.”

“Our whole program is volunteer based” Schroeder said.

“When it comes time to go into the schools, you need at least five volunteers per school because there are alot of kids who come [participate]. We wouldn’t’ be able to do it without volunteers, and [in order] to grow [the program] we need more”.

Cool Kids Lead recently partnered with Laurentian’s concurrent education program in order to exchange volunteer hours for internship credit.

“We [had] 30 con-ed students who were [interested[ in doing Cool Kids Lead as a placement and getting a credit for it” Reinhardt said.

“It was really nice because we always had a set of 30 volunteers who needed the hours and who ultimately picked us because they wanted to help us change the community as well”.

Concurrent education students at Laurentian require 40 hours of volunteer work for their practicum and according to Reinhardt, this can be achieved through Cool Kids Lead in between students first and second semester.

“We partnered with [con-ed] again this [upcoming] year and we’re going to take on 50 [placement] students this time instead of 30”.

“Our volunteer base isn’t really the strongest that it could be-a lot of people don’t know what it is” Schroeder said.

“Our only source of volunteers is con ed [students], athletes, and then maybe a couple of other students who have done it the first year [and] stick with us [throughout]. For us to get 50 con-ed students is huge”.

To date, Cool Kids Lead has participated in 17 schools.

“The first year [the program] started they had two, and at the end of this year the total number of schools we’ve done is 17″ Schroeder said. “We’re very proud of that number”.

For students who are interested in lending their time to Laurentian’s anti-bullying program, Cool Kids Lead, email or visit the LU gym.