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I am a Peace Officer for the past 5 years and my primary focus is in the schools with regard to safety presentations. I have also been a DARE Instructor for 4 years for the Foothills School Division 38. Some of the programs I offer schools in Okotoks include: WITS (Bullying awareness), Stranger Danger, Pedestrian Safety, Bike Safety, Internet 101 Safety, DRIVE (catholic Drug awareness) program and Understanding Dog Behaviour. I recently had the opportunity to attend a "Get Real" day at Red Deer Lake. I have no words to describe the day! Truly amazing! I knew a lot of the kids involved, as I had taught them DARE in the past couple years, and to see them go through this process was heartbreaking but so powerful. I have never seen or been involved in such an amazing program and I just wanted to say thank you for letting me be a part of it. I have seen a lot of things in my law enforcement years, but this was something I will never forget! I would also like to commend the facilitators, Lisa and Stu! They were wonderful!  I would love to be a part of your program in any way possible, as I truly believe this program does change kids lives for the better!

Peace Officer


I am writing this testimonial in regards to the “GET REAL” program that I experienced on November 25, 2009 at our school in Sylvan Lake.  Being the new Vice-Principal at the school there were many processes that had been started that I was unaware of when the year began.  One of these was “GET REAL”.  As we moved forward with the planning I could see the potential that this program had to offer.  Teaching students about empathy for others seemed like a worthwhile endeavor.  What I really had no idea of, was just how incredibly this program could change the lives of our grade eight students and those of the high school peer mentors that volunteered for the day.  And so, the story begins.

Meeting the facilitators Wendy, Stu, Lisa, and Rob was what really set the tone for the following day.  We had the high school mentors come to an evening session where they were essentially trained to help the grade eight students through the activities and games.  When you can have that feeling of comfort with new people, things always seem to be easier to transition through.  This was what it was like interacting with these people that first night.

Stu and Lisa were the two facilitators that spent the next two days with us and they were absolutely incredible.  The passion for their program was evident from the first moment they spoke of “GET REAL”. They knew how to interact with both, the students involved, the peer mentors as well as the parents and teachers. It was an absolute pleasure to spend a full day learning and working with Stu and Lisa.  If “GET REAL” becomes an annual event at our school, I would request the two of them.  And we truly hope that it does become that annual event that our school looks forward to delivering for our students and their parents.

The day that I was able to spend going through the program was inspiring as well as overwhelming.  As a teacher for the past 12 years there have been many students that have been through so much that it is hard to comprehend.  However, after participating in this program, I have a heightened sense of empathy that I did not realize that I knew.  The team building exercises that everyone goes through are a great precursor to what lies ahead.  When people feel like they can trust others it generally allows them to open themselves up and be free to express their emotions and let others in to their world.  The “GET REAL” program did this for so many people on this day.  Of course I am not naïve enough to think that this program is going to work for every single soul out there.  Or is it going to be something that each individual is going to respond as I have.  However, I can only imagine the possibilities and potential for this community from the occurrences during the day.  When you truly understand what some of the people around us are dealing with on a daily basis, unless you do not have a heartbeat, you cannot help but feel empathy for them.  And like was said throughout the day, “Why would you want to put more junk on someone, when you know how much junk they are already dealing with?”

By far, for me, the most powerful part of the day was the “Cross the Line” activity.  When you see the courage that some of these students and adults show by crossing either for themselves or for others, you feel moved.  It is quite heart-wrenching to see some of these people that you know, dealing with such baggage on a regular basis.  I also found it effective to be involved and showing some vulnerability on my part to let everyone know that I can trust them and that I too have problems and issues that I am dealing with regularly.

The follow up with small group sharing brought the crossings together.  People felt much more open to share if they so desired.  Being a life time resident of the town that I now teach in there was one item that truly made me have promise for our grade eight students.  As they move into the high school next year they already have made some connections with grade eleven and twelve students.  I know that living in this town this long I was able to have those connections when I moved from junior to senior high.  Not everyone has that same opportunity.  I will leave you with a quote from the high school peer mentor that was in my small group.  Although not exactly word for word, she spoke to the group of grade eight students and said this, “Next year, when you come over to the high school and if you have any problems, you come find me, I will be in grade twelve and I will help you!”  How truly powerful!

I could go on but instead I hope that if you read this, you “GET REAL”.

Darren Pickering - Vice Principal



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