When Brookswood Secondary students Erin Bergeron, Alexa Usher and Angelo Manca won the $5,000 Youth and Philanthropy Initiative (YPI) project, the charity they were competing for was the Amanda Todd Legacy Society, named after a Maple Ridge teenager who took her own life as a result of cyber-bullying.
Their winning presentation, which focused on mental health and suicide prevention, featured a video to honour the memory of Melaina Paisley, a close friend who committed suicide last year.
It was an emotional, dramatic performance choreographed by Bergeron and Usher, performed with the aid of several friends and edited by Manca.
The two students used to take dance classes with Paisley.
“Their family was close to all our families,” Bergeron said.
“We knew for our project, we wanted to revolve it around suicide prevention,” Usher said.
On Sunday, Bergeron and Usher presented a $5,000 cheque to Carol Todd, Amanda’s mother at the Young at Arts dance academy in Langley City.
Todd said she only learned about the grant a few days before the cheque presentation.
It was a surprise,” Todd said.
“It’s just amazing to see young people have these initiatives.”
Todd told the students they were role models for “everyone younger than you.”
“They are looking up to you, to what you do, to how you use social media,” she said.
Academy owner Meghann Turnbull, called Bergeron and Usher “the dynamic duo” who planned and executed the video on their own.
“I’m so proud of them,” Turnbull said.
The Sunday event also hosted a fundraising event “Dance for a Cause, ” that raised $626 for the Melaina Paisley arts scholarship fund.
As part of the YPI event, grade 10 Brookswood students give presentations highlighting a local charity to try to win a $5,000 grant for their chosen organization.
After two months of research, groups make multimedia presentations to a panel of judges.
District Superintendent Gord Stewart, one of the judges, said the contest falls in line with the district’s values of integrity, excellence, courage, and community.
“We’re hoping that beyond making sure students are numerate and literate, they’re going to be good citizens when they graduate,” Stewart said.
“Part of that is always giving the opportunities and encouraging them to give back to the community.”
Amanda Todd drew global attention to cyberbullying when she posted a YouTube video recounting her ordeal. She later took her own life in October 2012 when she was 15.
Todd used to go to school in Maple Ridge.
When she was in Grade 7, she was convinced by a stranger online to pose topless on a friend’s webcam.
That stranger used Todd’s image to blackmail her into providing him with more child pornography, threatening to send the nude photo to her friends and family unless she sent him more photos of herself.
When she didn’t comply, he made good on his promise.
Taunted by classmates at Westview secondary, Todd eventually moved to Maple Ridge secondary.
Todd and a male student at the school began a short-lived romantic relationship. When the boy’s girlfriend found out, the girlfriend and her friends bullied and taunted Amanda, eventually beating her up.
Midway through the school year, she transferred to Coquitlam Alternative Basic Education, in Coquitlam. But the cyber bullying by her peers in Maple Ridge continued.
Todd described how her life fell apart in a video she posted to YouTube, a month before she took her own life.
Holding up hand-written placards, she recounted the events that would eventually lead to her own death.
The Amanda Todd Legacy Society is a non-profit society that focuses on awareness and the well-being of individuals with respect to prevention and awareness relating to bullying, cyber abuse and internet safety, as encouraging mental wellness and healthy living.