DDSB Students ‘Huddle Up’ with Toronto Argonauts Players

Posted On Wednesday March 18, 2020
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L-R: Toronto Argos Director of Education and Community Programs Jason Colero and defensive lineman Fabion Foote spoke to students at Lakeside PS about bullying on March 9th.

Students at Lakeside PS and Eastdale CVI were overjoyed to hear first-hand inspiring stories from two professional football players

Jason Colero has worked for the Toronto Argonauts for the past 35 years, in a variety of positions. He first began working with the team on the sidelines, assisting in any way he could. Today he’s the Director of Education and Community Programs for the Toronto Argos. Colero says that over his 3 ½ decades with the team, he’s been inspired by countless athletes who have their own personal stories about the effects of bullying.

“If the players are inspiring me, imagine how they can inspire youth,” says Colero.

That was the thought Colero had back in 2001, when he started the Argos’ bullying awareness and prevention program called Huddle Up.

Huddle Up aims to be part of the solution to bullying. To accomplish this, the program brings professional athletes into schools to amplify the message of promoting a positive environment in school communities.

Paying it Forward at Lakeside PS

On March 4th, Grade 6-8 students at Lakeside Public School in Ajax were delighted to have Colero and Toronto Argos defensive lineman Fabion Foote join them for a Huddle Up assembly. The assembly was organized at the school level by the Lakeside PS Huddle Up Student Leaders.

Foote shared a few anecdotes about growing up in Rexdale and attending Thistletown Collegiate Institute. He says the transition from elementary to secondary school was hard for him at first. Luckily, he was introduced to football and it changed his entire outlook on life. “With football I found that no matter a person’s size, there’s always a place for them on the team. We’re a family. We support each other through good and bad,” explains Foote.

Foote continually goes home to Rexdale when he can, and lends a hand at the local Rexdale Boys and Girls Club, “We all need support at some point in life. It’s important to pay it forward when you can.”

Kaelan, a Grade 7 student and Huddle Up Student Leader, says it was interesting to hear a professional athlete talk about bullying, “It makes a huge difference when someone recognizable shares their experience. Their influence makes a big impact on us.”

Recognizing Value at Eastdale CVI

On March 9th, Colero and Toronto Argos linebacker Nakas Onyeka joined Grade 9 and 10 students at Eastdale CVI in Oshawa.

Onyeka told students that from Grade 6-8 he was bullied. He says when he got to high school, he was ‘fueled to get even’ and became a bully himself. “I didn’t value myself. I did it to make myself feel cool and secure.”

He went on to say that in Grade 11, a friend changed his life. “My friend C.K. saw what I was doing, and told me I needed guidance. He told me to join the football team. C.K. saved my life,” explains Onyeka.

Onyeka says the football locker room and field were the only places he didn’t feel judged.

He concluded by stating, “Society succeeds when each of us sees the value in the person next to us.”

The assembly at Eastdale CVI was also organized by a student group, who said that they were inspired by Onyeka’s story.

“It’s important for all students to know that you can always make a difference,” notes Sophia Drazso, a Grade 12 student at Eastdale CVI. “You don’t necessarily have to change something in one day, but over time, if you consistently try to better yourself, then you can make a positive impact on others.”

A Team Effort

This year marks the first time that the Toronto Argonauts have teamed up with the Toronto Maple Leafs, Toronto Raptors, and the Toronto Football Club (FC) to strengthen and grow the bullying awareness message. According to the Huddle Up website, the program has some exciting opportunities coming up as they re-brand to include all four Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment (MLSE) teams.

For more information about the Huddle Up program please visit: