I caught up with Marisol Quevedo and Sierra Hawkins, both 25 years old, from Free The Children last week as they toured across the United States. They are facilitating Club Penguin’s, “It Starts With You!” Bullying Prevention and Cyber-safety tour for schools. There are a limited number of spots available, but any parent, educator or student may nominate to have the tour come to their school.
When I contacted Marisol and Sierra, I asked them if they had any advice for parents and teachers about bullying in schools. As a parent of a 10-year-old, I often worry about how I would handle a bullying incident with my child and wonder how my son’s school would handle it.
The purpose of the “It Starts With You!” Bullying Prevention tour is to help kids understand what bullying and cyber-bullying is, how to stop it, and how to get help. It’s geared towards kids in 5th to 8th grade. Something that has surprised both Marisol and Sierra was when they ask school staff if bullying is a problem, and the staff believe it isn’t. When Marisol and Sierra speak to students they hear a much different story. They have discovered that bullying (and now cyber-bullying) is a problem everywhere.
One teacher told Marisol and Sierra that she hadn’t realized just how bad bullying had gotten. It was surprising to hear that in school after school, teachers and administrators are shocked to find that there is bullying happening in their school. Marisol told me, “Teachers have shown a lot of appreciation to us for what we are doing because as much as bullying is in the media, there aren’t a lot of resources for schools or time for discussions in schools about it.”
When Marisol and Sierra are invited into a school, they give a one-hour inspirational speech to both the students and the faculty on the topic of bullying and how to take action to prevent it. They define what bullying is, who can be a bully, bystander or victim, how bullying can be stopped, and what kids can do to become part of the solution.
One of the most powerful moments in their speech is the sharing of their own personal stories about being bullied as tweens. Says Sierra, “We’ve both been bullied in school and it resonates with the kids when they hear us tell our stories. One child recently came up to us after we spoke with tears in their eyes because they didn’t realize that it happened to others and felt so alone. Seeing the two of us up there talking about how we made it through gave them the courage to go on. For us, it’s kids like these that inspire us to make a difference in every school we visit.”
The speech to the school is only one component of the tour. The second part is a 3-hour interactive leadership workshop with 20 30 kids selected by the school. During the workshop, the first step is setting ground rules so kids feel safe sharing. For many of the kids, this is a big issue. They are scared to speak out because they don’t want to be the next victim of bullying in the school.
The second step is the facilitation of exercises with the kids to get them to open up even more and critically think about their schools situation. Finally, they inspire the kids to come up with their own solutions and action plans to tackle bullying in their school. Says Marisol, “It’s student-led based on what they feel will work in their school and it’s super inspiring for us to see what the kids come up with.”
In one school they planned a label-free day because they realized that kids who came from poor families were under a lot of pressure to live up to the latest fashion trend. In another school they started a bullying prevention club so they could keep the discussion going.
Finally, the tour isn’t over with the speech and workshop. Free The Children follows up with the school giving them links to lesson plans and a support person who shares the teacher and student resources they will need to keep the momentum from the “It Starts With You!” speaking tour going.
Do you want the speaking tour to come to your child’s school? It’s a free program for any school with all costs fully sponsored by Disney’s Club Penguin. To book a spot for your school for this year or next, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Spaces are limited.
Additionally, tips for parents and kids about online safety and bullying prevention may be found at Club Penguins’s safety page.
Do you believe bullying is an issue in your child’s school? Has your child been bullied, bullied another child or been a bystander to bullying? What did you do to help find a solution? We’d love to hear from you below!