UCD Students’ Union have begun work on an anti-cyberbullying initiative for second level schools, set to begin a trial period in three secondary schools around Ireland, beginning with an all-boy’s school in Dublin this week.

The initiative aims to create a peer support network between third level and second level students, allowing UCD students to visit schools to give a presentation and speak to students about their experiences. One of the main ambitions of the project is to send a positive message to these younger students and to emphasise that they are not alone.

UCDSU Welfare Officer Mícheál Gallagher has been working on the development of the project, as he explained: “I have designed a trial cyberbullying program and module. It is designed for third level students to be trained up, and then re-present it to second level students or schools.”

Though the module has been designed, and Gallagher believes a trial period is necessary in order to ensure the material being used is appropriate and helpful to students. He commented: “While we do the trial presentation, we are constantly going to be getting feedback from the students on how relevant it was to them and how do they feel and if they feel more comfortable tackling these issues. A lot of work goes into these modules to make sure they are worthwhile and are ticking all the boxes and meeting the needs of the secondary level students.” If the trial period is successful, it is hoped that the scheme may be expanded nationally, with talks currently ongoing with various youth organisations.

The scheme, provisionally called ‘I Was There’, came from a motion put forward by Health Sciences Convenor Adam Carroll and former Campaigns and Communications Officer Brendan Lacey at UCDSU Council. Lacey pushed for the motion to pass as he believes college students may have more of an impact on second level students on this issue: “Myself and Adam put through the motion to Council to get their involvement… I think there is a great place for us there, as we’ve been through all of that, but are still very close to it. While there is information and support out there for students, it’s all coming from quite an older generation. Coming from someone who’s two or three years out of school themselves, still gets it, still has a youthful feel to them; I think there could be some great benefit to that, to students who are struggling from that.”

The scheme will rely largely on volunteers from UCD, who will need to be trained in the module before they can begin giving presentations. An information evening about the initiative, where volunteers for the project will be sought, is taking place on January 24th at 5pm in the Student Centre. Gallagher hopes to also include the presentation in Welfare Crew Refresher Training on January 26th in order to gain as many volunteers for the project as possible.