Students of the Jamestown Public Schools district are looking to take a stand against bullying and the negative treatment of others.
On Wednesday, members of the Speak Up anti-bullying group of Jamestown High School visited students of a fellow anti-bullying group at Washington Middle School to discuss ways of treating classmates better.
The JHS students visited the Washington students in the classroom of Priscilla Menzies, fifth- and sixth-grade math and ELA teacher. According to Menzies, who is also the Washington club's adviser, the anti-bullying club at Washington came about completely through student initiation.
Members of Jamestown High School’s “Speak Up” anti-bullying group, pictured at center with blue T-shirts, visit with students from a fellow anti-bullying group at Washington Middle School on Wednesday.
P-J photo by Gavin Paterniti
"A couple of sixth-graders and a couple of fifth-graders both came forward separately, saying that they wanted to have an anti-bullying club, and they needed an adviser. So I said I was willing to do it, but to tell you the truth, this whole club has really been driven by them," said Menzies.
Since the club's formation, Menzies said it has worked in collaboration with the Speak Up club at JHS for the past month and a half.
"Basically, both of the clubs are about empowering kids to stand up (against bullying), not just be bystanders," she said. "So the high schoolers came down, and (they) did some activities together, and our students loved it. It's so nice to have the high school kids come down as role models, and to be talking about the same topics as equals."
The Speak Out club at JHS was also founded by a student. Olivia Zabrodsky, a senior, petitioned her peers to get the club running earlier this year.
"All over the country, our generation is experiencing a lot of bullying, especially cyber-bullying," Olivia said in a previous interview. "So it's been a lot of fun to have a group of people who are working to raise awareness in the community about the problem."
During Speak Up's visit to Washington, Olivia discussed some of the things that Speak Up was implementing in the high school, and suggested something similar for the Washington students. One of Speak Up's methods of diminishing bullying at the high school level was to write positive and affirming messages on sticky notes, then post them throughout the building. The high school students then assisted the Washington students in doing the same at their school.
Olivia said the activities Speak Up has been involved with at the high school have elevated the awareness of bullying as a topic of conversation.
"I definitely think (bullying) is something that everybody's talking about now," she said. "Before, bullying was never a conversation that was happening in the school, and now because of the club, whether it's something good or bad that they're talking about, (the fact is) they're talking about it."
Menzies said the influence of having the high school students coordinate with the Washington students will hopefully create healthy relationships in which the younger students can turn to Speak Up members.
"One of my dreams is that, when these kids go up to the high school, that maybe they will have made a couple of friendships, or connections or just people that they recognize as kind of a safe haven," she said. "Our best meetings have been when (Speak Up has) been here."
The collaboration of the two groups was also heralded by Barbi Price, Speak Up adviser.
"We're happy to have this collaboration. And we hope that it will continue to grow, and that these kids will make relationships with the high school kids so that they don't have that fear of going to the high school," said Price.
A future event discussed during the visit was a collaborative fundraiser that would provide for the purchase of T-shirts for the Washington club. Speak Up members have already gone through the process of making their own shirts, and graduating seniors are planning to recycle their shirts for future members. The preliminary discussions suggested the fundraiser be held in conjunction with Washington's lawn social scheduled for June 5.