MEET THE KIDS
Renaldo Rodriguez is an 11-year-old boy who loves camping, hiking and hanging out with his friends. Renaldo has a visual impairment as a result of being born prematurely. He is legally blind but can still see some light and shadow, and he wears glasses to help him detect large shapes that move in front of him. Renaldo uses a cane to help him get around, and he has a special hiking cane for navigating the trails at Hanging Rock where he loves to go camping with his Scouts group. Renaldo wants his friends to know that he is capable of doing all the things that they can do, he just has to do them in different ways- and that’s ok!
Renaldo appears in ‘Campers’ as part of the Accepting Differences program.
Mark Riley is an 11-year-old comedian and Healthy Eating Ambassador! He is always joking around and working on new material for the open-mic comedy nights he performs at on weekends. He loves making his friends and family laugh! Mark also enjoys going camping with his friends at Hanging Rock, and operating the fruit and veggie stand he opened at school with his twin brother Mike. Mark learned a lot about the health benefits of fruits and veggies from his Auntie Jean, who sells produce at the local farmer’s market. Mark has cerebral palsy, a developmental disability that affects his ability to control his movement. The muscles in Mark’s hands and legs are affected and he is unable to walk. He uses his wheelchair- or ‘cruiser’, as he calls it- to get around, and he loves the freedom it gives him.
Mark appears in ‘Campers’ as part of the Accepting Differences program, and in ‘Fruit Stand’ as part of the Healthy Kids program.
14-year-old Valerie Perkins is friendly, outgoing and energetic. She’s a very bright student with a flair for organization, and her friends can always count on her for homework help- she’s an awesome study buddy! Valerie is also a member of the cheerleading squad at her school. She loves cheerleading because it gives her the opportunity to share her positive energy and be active at the same time. Valerie is very mature for her age. She knows who she is and what she likes, and she isn’t afraid to stand up to peer pressure when other kids encourage her to do stuff she isn’t into- like partying and doing drugs. Valerie is a devoted friend and she gives great advice. When her friend Joanne is feeling pressured to go to a party where she might be tempted to drink or try drugs, Valerie helps her find the confidence to stand up for herself.
Valerie has spina bifida, which means she was born with an opening in one of the vertebrae in her spine. Because of her spina bifida, Valerie has minimal feeling in her hips and upper legs and no feeling in her lower legs. As a young child, Valerie spent a lot of time with a physical therapist, who helped her learn to walk using braces and a walker. Now she is able to walk using only her braces and crutches. Valerie can do all of the things other kids her age do, but she enjoys cheerleading and shopping the most!
Valerie appears in ‘Making the Right Choices’ as part of the Peer Pressure and Substance Abuse program.
David is a 14-year-old painter, crafter and bird expert. He loves birdwatching, and knows the names of all of the bird species that live around his house. David is Eddy Franklin’s older brother, and the two are often inseparable! They spend lots of time together kicking soccer balls in the backyard, jumping on their trampoline, and of course- birdwatching!
David has autism spectrum disorder (or ASD for short). For David, having autism means that he has trouble communicating with words, and he doesn’t always understand what people are saying to him. Like many people with autism, David also has sensory processing disorder. This means that he is extra sensitive to bright lights and loud noises. David gets uncomfortable when people speak loudly around him or enter his personal space. He wears special noise-cancelling headphones to help protect his ears from the noises in his environment. Sometimes David flaps his hands up and down when he gets excited or upset. This behavior is called ‘stimming’. People who don’t know David sometimes have trouble understanding the way he acts, but his family and friends know that stimming is just part of the way David expresses himself. David goes to a special school for kids with autism. His teachers help him learn to communicate with his words, and they teach him how to do things by himself like brushing his teeth and washing the dishes. David is a great painter, and his family thinks that he’ll get a job painting houses or fences when he grows up. David can be shy around new people, but he’s a great friend once he gets to know you. David likes playing and making friends just like all kids do, and he gets along best with the people in his life who treat him with respect and kindness.
David appears in ‘Making New Friends’ as part of the Accepting Differences program.
11-year-old Brenda Dubrowski is athletic, imaginative and most of all- an awesome friend! She loves practicing the piano, doing ollies on her skateboard and making up silly games with her friend Mel. Brenda is always there for her friends when they need someone to talk to, and she always knows just what to say to cheer someone up when they’re having a tough day. When Brenda was little, her mom taught her The Friendship Rhyme- a fun poem about being a good friend. Brenda loves sharing the rhyme with the people close to her, and it helps her remember the golden rule: Treat others the way you want them to treat you!
Brenda appears in ‘Don’t Just Sit There’ as part of the Healthy Kids program, ‘The Friendship Rhyme’ as part of the Life Lessons program, ‘Feelings Are Important’ and ‘The Counselling Game’ as part of the Mental Health program, and ‘SHHH!’ as part of the Accepting Differences program.
Melody James is 11 years old and lives with her parents and 3 older brothers. She takes ballet classes and loves to sing and act- she’s always performing! Growing up in a house full of big brothers can be tough, and sometimes they do stuff that is pretty annoying! Deep down, though, Melody loves all of her brothers, especially her big brother Shaun.
Two years ago, Melody’s oldest brother, Darryll, died in a car accident. Her family had a very difficult time dealing with his death, especially her brother Shaun, who has depression. The accident brought the James family closer together, and they all make sure to look out for each other when things get tough. Shaun is always there for Mel when she has a hard day, and he encourages her to talk about her feelings, just like he does with his counsellor, Susan. Mel looks out for her friends when other kids pick on them at school, and she always stands up for what she believes is right. Melody can be a little stubborn sometimes, but her strong will is part of what makes her a great friend and sister!
Melody appears in ‘Feeling Safe at School’ and ‘Bully Buster Life Lessons’ as part of the Bullying Prevention program, ‘What’s the Problem?’, ‘Feelings are Important’ and ‘The Counselling Game’ as part of the Mental Health program, and ‘Stranger Danger’ as part of the Safety Lessons program.
Nam Nguyen is 11 years old, and he loves playing computer games. Nam learns an important lesson about cyberbullying when he gets pressured into writing a mean message about a fellow player on his favourite game, Cyberspace Patrol. Nam also loves reading fantasy books about dragons and knights on horseback, and when he isn’t playing games online, you can almost always find him with a book in his hand. Nam has a big imagination, and wants to write his own fantasy series when he grows up! Nam’s family moved to Canada from Vietnam when he was a baby, and they go back to visit every summer. Nam loves going to Vietnam, and he has fun learning about Vietnamese traditions from his grandparents and extended relatives.
Nam appears in ‘Cyberspace Odyssey’ as part of the Bullying Prevention program, and he also appears as his younger self in ‘Getting Lost’ as part of the Safety Lessons program and in ‘The Friendship Rhyme’ as part of the Life Lessons program.
Joanne Spinoza is 14 years old, and she is the only child of divorced parents. Joanne is always involved in lots of activities including soccer, cheerleading, and writing for the school newspaper- she loves to be a part of the action! Joanne is at an age where she is starting to feel a lot of pressure from her peers to look and act a certain way, so sometimes she struggles with her self-esteem. Luckily, she has supportive friends who remind her about all the things that make her great! Joanne is going out with her first boyfriend, Shaun. She loves spending time with Shaun, and with the help of her mom, Joanne is learning how to communicate her feelings to make sure her relationship is safe and healthy. Joanne loves making friends and learning about what makes everyone unique. She is very chatty and loves asking questions, and she’ll always be there to stand up for her friends when they need support. She also loves pizza- just DON’T ask her to order pineapple as a topping!
Joanne appears in ‘Making the Right Choices’ as part of the Peer Pressure and Substance Abuse program, ‘Food for Thought’ as part of the Mental Health program, ‘Getting Butterflies’ as part of the Understanding Consent program, ‘Making New Friends’ as part of the Accepting Differences program, and ‘Super Friends’ as part of the Gender Expression and Family Diversity program.
Shaun James is 16 years old and lives with his parents, his two brothers and his little sister, Melody.
Two years ago, the James family went through a very difficult time when Shaun’s older brother, Darryll, was hit by a car and killed. Shaun became very withdrawn, and stopped participating in the activities he used to love, like playing football.
After going to a mental health professional and getting evaluated, Shaun was diagnosed as having clinical depression. Shaun now sees a counsellor named Susan who encourages him to talk about his feelings. He learns a lot from his counselling sessions, and being able to express how he feels makes him a better friend and brother. Shaun is going out with Joanne, and he is learning how to use his communication skills to strengthen their relationship. Shaun coaches basketball at the elementary school across from his high school, and he tries to act as a mentor to the kids on his team when they’re having problems that they need to talk about. Shaun is very mature for his age, and he is always looking out for the people around him.
Shaun appears in ‘The Counselling Game’ as part of the Mental Health program, and in ‘Getting Butterflies’ and ‘Just Joking Around’ as part of the Understanding Consent program.
Mike Riley is 11 years old and loves riding his bike and learning karate. He is also an identical twin. Being a twin can be tough, because sometimes Mike and his brother Mark get treated as if they’re the same person. Mike and Mark are best friends, but they also have very different personalities, and they want to be treated like the unique individuals they are! Mike’s brother, Mark, has cerebral palsy. Mark uses a wheelchair, so even though they are identical twins, people don’t have trouble telling them apart. Sometimes Mike feels like Mark gets more attention from their parents because of his physical difference, but he does his best to be a supportive brother and to help Mark out when he needs it. Mike is a budding entrepreneur, and he loves working at the fruit stand he started with Mark in their school cafeteria. Mike loves learning new healthy recipes, and he wants to be a chef when he grows up!
Mike appears in ‘Fruit Stand’ as part of the Healthy Kids program.
Kristine is 14 years old and loves to dance! She’s been taking ballet class since she was little, and she loves it so much that she wears her ballet outfit everywhere she goes! Kristine has autism spectrum disorder (ASD), and she struggles with social skills like reading facial expressions and picking up non-verbal cues. She loves to talk, and sometimes she forgets to give other people the chance to speak! Kristine loves structure, and it’s very important for her to stick to a regular schedule. That’s why she knows the local bus schedule inside and out! Kristine spends most of her school day going to class with rest of the kids in her grade, but she spends one period a day with her social skills teacher. Her social skills class teaches her rules about interacting with people, and those rules help her in social situations with her friends and classmates. Kristine likes talking to people about having ASD and showing other kids that it’s ok to be a little different! Having autism is just one of the things that makes Kristine unique, and she always encourages her friends to be proud of who they are.
Kristine appears in ‘Making New Friends’ as part of the Accepting Differences program.
ERIC VAN AART
Eric Van Aart is 14 years old and lives with his parents and his seventeen-year-old sister, Gretchen. Eric grew up with his friend Paul Worthington, and the two were inseparable for most of their lives. Toward the end of elementary school, Paul and Eric started experimenting with drinking and doing drugs. They spent a lot of time hanging out with Paul’s older brother, Bill, and getting drunk on the weekends turned into a habit. After the police got involved when their friend Rob got alcohol poisoning at an end-of-year party at Eric’s house, Eric was forced to change his behaviour and stop drinking, and he started seeing a counsellor to talk about his feelings. Paul and Eric haven’t spoken much since, and Eric hopes that Paul will get some help just like he did. Since Eric stopped drinking and partying, he’s discovered new hobbies and interests that he didn’t know he had- like writing for the school newspaper. Eric is a supportive and caring friend, and he hopes to become a counsellor when he grows up so he can help kids just like him who want to turn their lives around but don’t know how.
Eric appears in ‘Making the Right Choices’ as part of the Peer Pressure and Substance Abuse program.
Paul Worthington is 14 years old, and has been best friends with Eric since they were young. Paul spent a lot of time at Eric’s house growing up, because things at his own house haven’t always been so great. Paul lives with his mother and father and, until very recently, his older brother, Bill. Paul’s father has a drinking problem, and he often isn’t there for Paul when he needs support. Paul’s mom works a lot, and is rarely home to spend time with the family. Paul’s brother, Bill, started drinking and doing drugs at a young age, and he’s spent time in jail on several drug related charges. Bill doesn’t live at home anymore, and Paul feels like he has no one around to talk to. Paul and Eric started drinking and experimenting with drugs in grade 7. They spent a lot of time hanging out with Bill and his friends, and partying became a habit for both of them. When the police got involved after a serious incident at Eric’s house, Eric started going to counselling and drifted apart from Paul. Paul continued to drink and do drugs, but has started to find that other kids don’t want to be around him anymore because of his reputation for wild partying. Paul is beginning to realize that he needs to get some help to change his behaviour. It’s hard for him to recognize his problem and ask for help, but with support from Eric, he hopes to find new ways to express himself and cope with his problems.
Paul appears in ‘Making the Right Choices’ as part of the Peer Pressure and Substance Abuse program. He also appears as his younger self in ‘Just Joking Around’ as part of the Understanding Consent program, and in ‘Happy Papa’s Day’ as part of the Gender Expression and Different Families program.
Brian is nine years old and lives with his father, who is the caretaker at his school. Brian works hard at school and he LOVES to read! His favourite series is The Hunger Games, but he’s also read the whole Harry Potter series THREE times! Brian is a major baseball fan, and he knows all the stats about the Toronto Blue Jays. His favourite player is Joe Carter, and his most prized possession is a signed baseball from Joey Bats himself! Brian also loves telling stories, and he dreams of starting a storytelling podcast when he grows up.
Brian appears in ‘Stranger Danger’ as part of the Safety Lessons program, and in ‘The Writing on the Wall’ as part of the Vandalism Prevention program.
Anna is nine years old and full of energy! She is a gifted artist, and loves drawing and painting on everything she can- sometimes she has to be reminded to keep her drawings in a sketchbook and NOT in schoolbooks or on lockers! Anna has Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (or ADHD for short), which means that she has trouble paying attention and controlling her energy. She gets very easily distracted by the world around her, and has to work very hard to focus on what she’s doing. Anna was diagnosed with ADHD when she was very young, and her family works together with her doctors to find strategies that help her calm down and pay attention when she needs to. Anna is very open with her friends about having ADHD, because talking about it helps people understand why she acts a little differently sometimes. Anna’s favourite thing to focus on is her drawings, and she dreams of becoming a famous artist when she grows up.
Anna appears in ‘SHHH!’ as part of the Accepting Differences program, ‘The Writing on the Wall’ as part of the Vandalism Prevention Program, and ‘Calling 911’ as part of the Safety Lessons Program.
Jason is 11 years old, and he loves music, fashion and- especially- unicorns! Jason found his older sister’s unicorn collection in his basement, and has been a unicorn enthusiast ever since. Jason is inspired by unicorns because he loves how they are all so UNIQUE. Jason gets picked on at school sometimes because he looks and acts different from the other boys in his class. He likes painting his nails and wearing clothes that some kids say are ‘just for girls’. With support from his friend, Joanne, Jason is learning to stand up against the stereotypes that say there are certain ways that boys and girls are supposed to act, and he is embracing the things about him that make him unique! Jason is lucky to have a lot of supportive friends in his life. His friend Mel also helps out when Jason is getting picked on by the school bully, Robbie Jenkins. Jason also loves playing the flute in the school band, watching movies and playing lots of video games. Jason lives with his Mom, Dad and older sister, Keisha. Keisha and Jason often argue about little things, but they love each other a lot (even if they don’t like to admit it!). Jason’s mom is a lawyer, and she spends a lot of time at the office, so Jason’s dad helps out a lot by cleaning the house and packing Jason’s lunches. Everyone has a role to play in Jason’s house to make sure the Robinson ship runs smoothly! Go, team Robinson!
Jason appears in ‘Calling 911’ as part of the Safety Lessons program, ‘Bully Buster Life Lessons’ as part of the Bullying Prevention program, ‘Don’t Just Sit There!’ as part of the Healthy Kids program, and ‘Super Friends’ as part of the Gender Expression and Family Diversity program.
Clare is a ten-year-old baseball player and online gamer. Her older brother, John, is her hero and she looks up to him more than anyone else in the world. Anything John does, Clare does too! Clare is a very bright student, and she likes helping her friends out with their homework- she’s especially good at math. Clare has a very strong relationship with her mom too, and she knows she can always talk to her about her feelings. Clare has many talents, including dancing and singing karaoke, but her biggest dream is to be the first female baseball player to play for the big leagues!
Clare appears in ‘You’re Not the Boss of Me!’ and ‘Cyberspace Odyssey’ as part of the Bullying Prevention program, ‘What’s the Problem?’ as part of the Mental Health program, ‘Just Joking Around’ as part of the Understanding Consent program, and ‘Happy Papa’s Day’ as part of the Gender Expression and Family Diversity program.
Eddy is ten years old and likes to play baseball and write mystery stories. He lives with his mother, his father, and his older brother David, who has autism. Even though Eddy is younger than David, he acts as David’s mentor by encouraging him to communicate with his words, helping him stay calm when he gets overwhelmed and spending time with him doing the things he loves, like birdwatching and jumping on the trampoline. Because of his experience with supporting David, Eddy knows a lot about autism, and is always eager to talk to people about his brother. He wants everyone to treat David with kindness and respect, and he knows that helping people understand each other’s differences is the best way to create a kind and caring world! Eddy has had some of his own problems with bullying at school. His mom often busy with David, and his dad is away at work a lot, so he sometimes feels like he doesn’t have anyone to talk to. Luckily, Eddy has supportive friends of his own who have helped him through his hard times. Eddy is the president of the Clean-Up Initiative at his school. The group works together to cover up graffiti in the school and around the community, making the neighborhood a brighter and more welcoming place to live and learn! Eddy is passionate about helping out his community. He isn’t sure what he wants to do when he grows up, but he knows that he wants to have a job where he can help people!
Eddy appears in ‘Feeling Safe at School’ and ‘You’re Not the Boss of Me!’ as part of the Bullying Prevention program, ‘Making New Friends’ as part of the Accepting Differences program, and in ‘The Writing on the Wall’ as part of the Vandalism Prevention program.
John is 16 years old, and works as an apprentice pizza chef at the local mall. He is a very strong student, and he believes that with hard work and dedication, he can do anything he puts his mind to. John loves being a mentor to his family and friends, and he can always be counted on to give great advice. His favourite person to mentor is his little sister, Clare. John and Clare’s dad doesn’t live with them anymore, so John acts as a positive male influence for his sister. John and Clare have a very special relationship, and he would do anything for her. John has been going out with his girlfriend, Lisa, for a while, and he’s learned the importance of communication in a healthy relationship. John helps his friends out by encouraging them to communicate their feelings too. John knows he’s a great mentor, so he thinks he might want to pursue teaching or social work when he graduates high school.
John appears in ‘What’s the Problem?’ and ‘Food for Thought’ as part of the Mental Health program, and ‘Just Joking Around’ and ‘Getting Butterflies’ as part of the Understanding Consent program.