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Bullying: Teens take the lead as anti-bullying mentors, advocates

Bullying prevention starts with teens, and in communities around the country they are taking the lead as anti-bullying leaders, advocates, and mentors for their peers. It is an inspiring trend at a time when several high-profile teen suicides have been linked to bullying.

By Contributor / April 24, 2012

A guest wears an anti-bullying button, which is the logo of the documentary film "Bully" at its Los Angeles premiere in Hollywood. Teens across the country are taking the lead, and becoming anti-bullying leaders, advocates and mentors for their peers.

Danny Moloshok / Reuters

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Probably any number of things could inspire a student to become an activist, but in 16-year-old Ali’s case, it was “an English homework assignment about marginalized groups in society,” The Gazette, in Lisbon, Iowa, reported. “She realized they needed a voice,” apparently thought about how kids can get marginalized in bullying types of situations, and e-mailed Lisbon Community Schools’ dean of students, Terese Jurgensen with an idea for a bullying prevention program. Apparently Ms. Jurgensen was impressed with the thoughtfulness of Ali’s message and offered her support.

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“A gathering of a few student council representatives led to the initiative for ‘The Voice’,” a program that has high school student council members both teaching and supporting elementary students on an ongoing basis (the older students go to elementary classes two to three times a month and become their “hallway friends” in this K-12 school).

All 28 members of the volunteer council supported the idea, which was key to the program’s success.

In what sounds like very wise advice, Jurgensen and her fellow administrators told these student activists, “You have to live it. You have to teach it.” The high school students knew younger students looked up to them but now they were becoming role models. “In an October retreat the council identified types of bullying – physical, verbal, cyber – as well as social alienation and intimidation. It came up with a three-point pledge: be strong, stand up, use your voice.”

They were teaching and modeling resilience, standing up for oneself and a community’s norms, and being good to people – knowing they had a kind of credibility with younger students that the adults at school didn’t have.“Success is evident,” the Gazette reported.

One of the student council members told The Gazette that she learns more about what works every time she visits an elementary classroom. That’s a good teacher, eh?

As for what motivated student activist Torin Hovander in Albuquerque, N.M., “a few of my friends and I decided that we didn’t like what was going on in not just our school but in schools all across the country,” he e-mailed me. So Torin, a senior, and his friends started a bullying prevention and awareness-raising club at his high school last September.

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