“I am not what has happened to me. I am what I choose to be.”
“A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.”
“Dream it. Wish it. Do it.”
These are among the quotes posted on hundreds of Amherst Junior High lockers after school Wednesday by members of a club called Agents of Change.
“We’re getting kids to open up and share a little bit of kindness and prevent any kind of bullying,” said Sam Donohue, who belongs to the student group. “We want to help make this school a welcoming place.”
Donohue joined the junior high club after seeing her own brother bullied at school. “I instantly got mad and went to the office,” she recalls.
One in four children nationwide reports being bullied each year, according to the National Center for Educational Statistics.
What goes unsaid, though, is more disturbing. A 2010 study found nearly two-thirds of bullying incidents are never reported.
When asked who has experienced bullying firsthand, nearly all of the 10 Agents of Change members we spoke with raised their hands.
While face-to-face confrontations seem to be on the decline, student Elizabeth Raider said bullying is getting far worse online where it’s easy for aggressors to hide behind fake names.
The majority of club members agreed with her assessment, saying cyber-bullying is vicious — and, sadly, that they know from personal experience.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have a great deal to say about how bullying affects students.
Those who are the victims often have sleep difficulties, anxiety, depression, and poor school adjustment. Bullies themselves are at an increased risk for academic problems, substance abuse, and escalating violent behaviors. Those who are both on the giving and receiving end “suffer the most serious consequences and are at a greater risk for both mental health and behavior problems,” a 2015 report states.
There is some good news. Studies cited by the PACER Center, a Minneapolis-based advocacy group for families of children with disabilities, suggest school-based anti-bullying programs like Agents of Change decrease instances of bullying by up to 25 percent.
Better yet, more than half of bullying situations are stopped when a peer steps in to help a student being harassed.
Mary Scott Williams, an intervention specialist at Amherst Junior High who advises Agents of Change, said there have been no major bullying incidents this school year.
The club hopes its efforts April 18-22 will prevent any from arising.
Using a You Belong Grant of $2,500 through the Lorain County Board of Mental Health, its members staged “Kindness Week.”
They hired a motivational speaker to address the student body, passed out cookies, put inspirational quotes on lockers, held a “Pink Shirt Day” in support of Canadian bullying victim, gave out pink ribbons, and held a “Mix Your Clique” event at lunch where teens were encouraged to sit at different tables to meet new people.
Jason Hawk can be reached at 440-988-2801 or @EditorHawk on Twitter.
Photos by Jason Hawk | Amherst News-Times MaKayla Schreiber hangs inspirational quotes on lockers Wednesday at Amherst Junior High School to spread positivity among her peers.