Greenback High takes a stand against bullying
By Matthew Stewart | (email@example.com)
Two Greenback High School students have partnered with faculty and staff to stop bullying.
Juniors Devin Plemons and Madison Spencer recently implemented a community awareness project, which addressed the unwanted, aggressive behavior among schoolchildren. Both students have identified themselves as victims of cyberbullying, or bullying undertaken through the use of electronic devices.
Health science teacher Judy D’Ooge helped the pair through their experiences. After overcoming their experiences, the high-schoolers asked D’Ooge and administrators to organize and implement a community awareness project.
Plemons and Spencer later distributed a survey to middle- and high-schoolers to determine if there was a chronic bullying problem on campus. The pair concluded that there was a problem and created programming to address it.
The high-schoolers researched and hired a guest speaker for Friday’s assembly. They also organized small group discussions with mental health professionals, in addition to a “blackout” event at Friday night’s game.
The pair plan to enter the project into a Health Occupations Students of America (HOSA) competition.
Family entertainer John Pyka addressed students at Friday’s assembly. “Have you ever closed your eyes and wished you could be someone else? Maybe live in a different time or place. When I was younger, I wasn’t cool or popular. People made fun and picked on me, mostly because of my weight.”
He told students that the incessant bullying changed him. “I was headed down a pretty dark path. I’d go to bed and dream of ways to get even. I dreamed about blowing up the school. If one teacher hadn’t listened to me, I would have come up with a way to do it. He made a difference and saved my life.”
The teacher took an interest in Pyka, later exposing him to the arts. “Music, theater and magic allowed me to create larger than life characters. They made me special and unique. They gave me hope.”
The entertainer later recalled a show choir concert in Hazard, Ky. Pyka went out to a girl in the front row, held her hand and sang Van Morrison’s “Brown Eyed Girl.” On that particular day, he sang to a 12-year-old girl in a wheelchair.
“She held my hand and said, ‘I love you,’” Pyka said. “It wasn’t that unusual, because music and art can connect us on a pretty deep level. I didn’t think much about it. After the show, I saw the girl and her mother.
“As her mother talked to me, tears came streaming down her face,” he said. “A car wreck put Amanda into a wheelchair at 5 years old, and the same accident killed her father. She was 12 years old, and she hadn’t spoken one word since she was 5 years old. Those were her first words in seven years!”
Pyka’s experience taught him an important lesson. “It’s important for teachers and students to realize that no matter how dark a path you’re headed down, you can still impact someone. You have the potential to save people.”
He also discovered a way to stop being bullying by others. “It wasn’t until I realized that I had talents, gifts and passion that I escaped bullying. They made me a celebrity, and bullies don’t beat up celebrities. I was beat up everyday in sixth grade then I figured out what makes me special. Everybody has something that makes you unique and special. However, some of you haven’t found out yet or you’re afraid to own it. Claim what is yours! It gives you strength.”
Pyka then encouraged audience members to undertake a period of self discovery. “God has appointed each and every person to do a task. If you’re not doing it, it’s time to start now.”
He also encouraged teachers to get more involved in the lives of their students. “You can be a mentor to every single student, but you have to want to do it. You have to engage them and give them the tools and talents to see their own uniqueness then the bullying problem will go away.”
‘Really important issue in today’s age’
Administrators are pleased with the community awareness project.
“Our kids are aware of what’s going on in their school and around the world,” Principal Barbara A. Bradley. “I appreciate that these two girls stepped up and took on a really important issue in today’s age. The message will also mean more coming from fellow students instead of staff. Our administrative doors are always open, and we’ve told them that they can come and talk with us. They are starting to become more open with us.”