University of Victoria professor Bonnie Leadbeater was named a recipient of a B.C. Community Achievement Award last week.
The Saanich resident and psychology prof has worked with a team of educators and police officers for more than 15 years on developing and implementing the WITS anti-bullying program in B.C. and Canada.
“This is a team award – it’s a huge team of people that work on WITS,” Leadbeater said. WITS (Walk Away, Ignore, Talk It out and Seek Help) is used in schools to “talk to kids in a non-threatening way and talk about how to problem solve, instead of who’s going to be punished or who’s tattling,” she explained.
WITS began in the 1990s, first initiated by the principal of the former Lampson elementary school in Esquimalt and then taken up by a police school liaison officer. Leadbeater and a UVic-based research team joined in 1998 when WITS was formalized as a program.
“When Reena Virk died (in November 1997), people were very concerned about youth violence. The feeling was we need to start early, need to do something to help kids deal with peer conflict in a peaceful and proactive way,” Leadbeater said. “I got involved as a consultant, and then as someone to do the research. They were pretty sure that they had evidence this program worked and everybody wanted to know (definitively) if it did.”
Leadbeater said the B.C. Community Achievement Award is “a great honour,” especially as an academic.
“What pleases me most is it’s a non-academic award. To be honoured for something where everyone else is being honoured for their contributions and volunteer work – that’s a rare experience for an academic to be recognized for the application of their work,” she said. “It’s extraordinarily flattering for me.”
Two other Greater Victoria residents – Donald Brown and Daphne Goode – were named recipients of a B.C. Community Achievement Award. Brown is a longtime community leader in a number of fields, while Goode has spent more than 40 years volunteering for a variety of Greater Victoria organizations.
The awards are given out by the British Columbia Achievement Foundation, which was launched specifically to highlight the work and community contributions of British Columbians.
The 34 award recipients will be recognized in a ceremony at Government House on April 29. Each receives a certificate and medallion for their recognition.