Advice like this falls prey to deaf ears on a daily basis, but on Friday, March 7, eighth-grade students at Walnut Grove were confronted with the message during an anti-bullying seminar led by two Patterson High School seniors.
For Monica Hernandez and Adriana Rodriguez, bullying is a personal and devastating issue that should not be taken lightly.
“Bullying puts everyone in danger,” said Rodriguez, commanding attention and silence in Walnut Grove’s lightly lit gymnasium.
Many of the eighth-grade onlookers locked eyes with Rodriguez, who held a serious expression on her face throughout the entire speech.
“Remember the Columbine shooting?” asked Adriana. “When you have so much rage in your mind, and you feel like it’s never going to stop, you may take someone down with you. You may want them to hurt as much as you’ve been hurt. Bullying is a serious issue, and it leads to serious consequences.”
After experiencing several different forms of bullying themselves, the two seniors decided to start an initiative—Stand Up to Bullying—as part of their senior exit exam program. Their joint effort resulted in a powerful, high energy program in which youth and adult participants were guided through a series of experiential learning processes to eliminate teasing, violence and all forms of oppression within the community.
According to Recreation Coordinator Jason Hayward, who acted as a mentor for Monica and Adriana, the program was a complete success.
“The strongest component about this project is that it’s real to them,” said Hayward. “Everyone in this room has been bullied or has been a bully at some point. They are all affected by this and it means something to them. All the eighth-graders turned in their parent permission forms. It’s a good sign that every student we reached out to was encouraged to come.”
The eighth-graders took a keen interest in listening to their high school counterparts, who resonated a serious but entertaining manner throughout the entire six hour course.
The overall goal of the program did not only outline daunting analytics associated with bullying, but provided a base to improve the children’s personal empowerment in order to shift dangerous motives of peer pressure to positive peer support. Students were encouraged to participate in skits, games, share inspiring stories or utilize other skills to improve their self-worth.
“It’s for the youth,” said Adriana. “We are the future. If we want to create a world that is peaceful, we have to start taking initiative.”
“I’ve noticed bullying so many times during the school year,” added Monica. “I’ve been bullied, I have close friends who have been bullied. We know that bullying isn’t going to go away,” said Monica. “It will never go away. But I wanted to do something that would get bullying noticed.”
I don’t want bullying to be the norm, I want it to be the exception, said Monica.
Contact Brooke Borba at 892-6187, ext. 24, or email@example.com.