Fresno's answer to bullying
Bullying is a hot topic in many places, and that’s because it’s alive and well. No parent or teacher wants to see a child go through it, but there are also high school students who want to help stop it. It takes some courage for others to stand up for a child who is being bullied, but also to join a program where they mentor elementary-aged children to try to stop it.
At Sunnyside High School in Fresno, Calif., a teacher has created the “Don’t Laugh at Me” club, the goal of which is to stop the bullying. Teacher Cindy Mello got the idea when www.challengeday.org visited her school and did a school-wide, day-long intervention program about accepting each other’s differences. Since then Mello has brought this program to be in the Fresno Unified School District and hopes the program grows throughout the United States.
The kids write the program and gear it to elementary school children, and they are given a little creative license to change it from year to year with each new group. First, there is an introduction about the 30-minute program. Some students have written poetry about bullying, so they might have a part of the program for readings. There is also a skit performed about teasing and bullying. After the skit, one-three kids will stand up and deliver a personal testimony about their experiences with bullying. Some were bullied, and some had been the bully themselves.
Another part of the program is the three steps to dealing with bullying. They include:
• Notice - what’s around you
• Choose – figure out what to do
• Act – tell a teacher or principal
At some point in the program, the part that never changes from year to year, the song Don’t Laugh at Me by Mark Wills, is played along with a PowerPoint presentation showing the words so the children can sing along. This song delivers a powerful message about our differences and teaches acceptance. Alongside the presentation, about 30 kids involved in mentoring with the program will act out each part of the song.
The high school students involved with this program not only send a powerful message, but they learn skills when they create the brochures, learn public speaking and writing as well as they participate.
Mello notes that some kids will come into the program shy and maybe too the point they don’t really speak to anyone, but after participating in it they come out of their shell. “A lot of these kids were bullied, and it’s neat to watch them grow,” says Mello.
She remembers a student, Ryan Wilker, who participated in the program through high school saying that he was teased for being a part of it. It didn’t get to him though because he felt he was giving back to the community. Mello tries to get kids involved when they are freshman because by the time they are seniors they are so good at the program, and it helps them grow through high school. Students are required to keep a 2.0 GPA to participate, which also encourages them academically.
To find out more about the club, log on to www.sunnyside.fresno.k12.ca.us and click on “Clubs.” You’ll find the “Don’t Laugh at Me” club listed there, and Mello is happy to answer any questions about getting the program started in your area.