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Drama students at R.B. Russell Vocational High School examined bullying from all sides as part of a recent school production.

X-Bully-X was written, produced and performed by students in the long-running Community Action Program at R.B. Russell.

"We want students to know that it's not right to bully, and everyone can make a difference if they work together," said student performer Monique Michelle.

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Teacher Jay Willman started the drama and leadership-focused program 26 years ago.

"This program is for the students and by the students. It's their stories," he said. "We write plays about issues in the Inner City, issues that students have lived themselves. They want to positively change themselves and their community."

Students in the program have performed in six different provinces over the years.

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"Each performance isn't just about the theatre. We do a workshop on the topic at hand," Mr. Willman said. "If there's a common thread to all of them, it's self-improvement and community improvement. When I've done my job, I'm able to sit back and do nothing, because the students drive it all. This is preparation for life."

Student Keagan Shingoose said students have found their voice through the program.

"We all started off really quiet—we were so quiet that we didn't even want to talk to each other. Now we are all out of our shells. We're so happy to be here."

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"We've made a nice, huge new family," added student Danica Buxton.

The program has run for so long that its alumni now spans several generations.

"We have students in this show whose parents were in the first wave of performers years ago," Mr. Willman said. "As a teacher, that's tremendously rewarding."

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On June 6, the day of the big performance, students got another big lift thanks to a $1,500 donation from the Y-Not? Program, which supports positive opportunities for Inner City youth. The cheque was presented by former R.B. Russell English teacher and Y-Not founder Brian MacKinnon.

The program also donated 210 copies of Margaret Shaw MacKinnon's anti-bullying novel The Beech Nut of Big Water Beach to the school.


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