Belfast Telegraph

How former bully Dylan (who had been a victim himself), now campaigns to stamp it out at his school

BY CLAIRE WILLIAMSON

He was bullied, then became a bully – and now he's an award-winning anti-bullying ambassador.

Dylan Stewart (13) from Co Down knows what it's like on both ends of the bullying scale.

The New-Bridge Integrated College pupil was bullied in primary school, then in secondary school he got in with the wrong crowd and got involved himself.

But everything changed after he watched a hard-hitting video through the Diana Anti-Bullying Ambassadors programme which trains young people to identify and tackle bullying.

He vowed to stop and began to champion change in his school.

He said: "When I was bullying people I didn't really know what I was doing, I didn't really understand how serious it was.

"When I was asked to go to the anti-bullying programme, I saw how serious bullying was and I wanted to stop it.

"It showed this eight-year-old who had been bullied until she was 16 and then she took her own life.

"That's why I really wanted to get in to it."

Now Dylan is one of this year's Diana Anti-Bullying Ambassadors after he headed up a series of initiatives along with 15 others in his school to stamp it out.

They include a drop-in centre where every lunchtime fellow pupils can come and tell them their problems.

At breaktime and lunchtime they wear blue hoodies so they are easily recognised by pupils and they also did an assembly where one person stood against the wall and the rest called him names to show the impact of bullying.

Yesterday, Dylan was one of 60 young people from across Northern Ireland and the Republic recognised for their work from four schools, including Belfast Model Girls School and New-Bridge Integrated, at Facebook's European Headquarters in Dublin. At a star-studded event, pupils showed how they had overcome and tackled bullying through the programme.

They were awarded the Diana Award which was set up as a lasting legacy to Princess Diana's belief that young people have the power to change the world for the better.

Among the famous names supporting the event was Hollywood actor Will Poulter and Britain's Got Talent finalist Jordan O'Keefe.

Poulter, who experienced bullying at school, presented the Diana Award for the first time in Ireland to Dylan.

CEO of the Diana Awards Tessy Ojo said she was "incredibly proud" of all the award recipients.

"These are young people who have taken on a cause and made a difference in their communities and in their school.

She continued: "When we see people like Dylan – or the other 60 young people who are receiving an award – who are getting the award because they have changed something in their school, only one word describes it which is proud.

"Someone like Dylan who a few years ago was involved in bullying other people because he had no idea that was bullying.

"He is almost like the best evangelist for this cause because he can tell people, look when you call people names, it's bullying."

Stormont's junior ministers Jennifer McCann and Jonathan Bell joined the pupils at the event.

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