On the final two days of Bullying Awareness and Prevention Weeks at Bayview Glen, students and staff across much of the school welcomed a guest speaker with an informed lens on the subject.
“To be generous, to be a good teammate, a good friend, to get people to follow you, you have to first invest in them, invest in those relationships,” shared Donnovan Bennett, moments before addressing grades 3, 4 and 5 in the Lower School, at the end of November. “Whether we’re talking about successful businesses, successful teams, successful families, having some grace and some empathy goes a long way. Essentially, that is the message I’m looking to share.”
And he did just that during multiple addresses over two days.
Bennett, a host and writer at Sportsnet, producer, podcaster and married father of two young children tailored his message across 10 grade levels, engaging students through relatable anecdotes and his lived experience.
“I think I’ve learned a lot and been fortunate to meet a lot of high achieving highly competitive individuals, given the nature of my job in sports,” says the St. Andrew’s College and Western University graduate. “So, I’m always trying to selfishly learn what it is about them that makes them unique, special and successful.”
During the Lower School presentation in a packed atrium, students enthusiastically participated when prompted by Bennett about how to be supportive and encouraging of others.
“So, when we treat other people with respect, when you encourage them, when we share with them, and we include them, it’s not just great for them — it’s great for you, and it’s great for everybody,” he told the more than 150 Lower School students in attendance.
Students asked questions on a variety of related topics including leadership. One question elicited this response from guest speaker Bennett.
“Differences are something that we shouldn’t shy away from, change, try and conform to, or be more like — whatever the norm is,” said Bennett. “Specifically, if you come from some sort of marginalized group, whether it’s based on gender, or race or ethnicity, or potential disability that you may have — whatever the case may be — I would say whatever it is that makes you different, lean into that, accentuate that because ultimately that’s an intrinsic advantage.”
As a speaker who visits different schools, among other environments, and whose media work often touches on the intersection between sports, race, gender and culture, Bennett is keenly aware of both the medium and the message. Being a father to two boys (three and 10 months old) further deepens the significance of addressing kids on topics including: allyship, inclusivity, leadership, values and diversity, among others.
“These are all things that no matter the age group, I wish I was more cognizant of when I was their age,” he says.
Adds Morgan, “To stomp out acts of bullying requires more than treating others as we treat ourselves. I hope students remember to work towards being people of integrity who will stand up for others and are willing to do the right thing even if no one is watching.”
The conversation continues.