Last year when Brooke Larson, then in seventh grade at Roosevelt Middle School (RMS), was bullied by a classmate, her friends gave her support. The incident made Larson stop to think, what it would be like if every time students were bullied, their peers stood up for them and told them everything is going to be OK.
Larson turned her thoughts into action. With a goal of students working together to end bullying at their school, Larson took a well-developed plan to RMS counselor Nicki Magaard. From there “Youth Against Bullying” (YAB) was born.
Magaard sees YAB as a support for students who are struggling with not being respected, or feel like they are not being heard. All students are welcome to attend YAB meetings to share their experiences. A core group of about 15 students meet each week.
“It’s also a way for students to be good role models and create a culture that it’s cool for kids to stand up for their classmates,” Magaard said. “There will be a big impact if it’s a cultural shift with the kids rather than something coming from the adults.”
Magaard has been impressed with Larson’s work.
“It was amazing that Brooke was so far along in the development of the idea (for YAB),” Magaard said. “We get kids who’d like to do something but they need a lot of scaffolding. Brooke had all her ducks in a row and her plan was done.
“While we had to adjust Brooke’s plan to fit into the parameter of school rules, she had great ideas and goals. I don’t know what we’ll do when she leaves us next year for Blaine High School.”
At YAB meetings students play games with trivia questions about bullying, review books and articles, share personal experiences and talk about what to do if they witness bullying. To showcase the talent of the sixth-grade students and to build a sense of community, YAB is sponsoring a talent show for sixth-grade students Nov. 1.
In addition to YAB students reviewing the sixth-grade students’ acts to make sure they were appropriate for school, YAB students wrote skits about cyber bullying, gossiping and name calling they will perform.
An aspiring writer, Larson is involved with the cyber bullying skit. Next to gossiping, Larson sees cyber bullying as one of the most common forms of bullying.
“You see postings on Facebook that don’t say very nice things,” Larson said. “The postings don’t always name someone by name, but they write it so everyone knows who they are talking about.”
Through YAB Larson hopes students learn that bullying isn’t always physical and that they will report bullying when they see it. She also hopes that people in YAB will show other students how to be more kind.
When she began YAB, Larson was worried no one would come to a meeting in part because she felt like she was the only person who felt the way she did. But the group has been a success both in providing students a safe place to talk about bullying and in teaching students what to do when they see bullying.
“It’s important that people know there is a group they can come to,” Larson said. “It’s great to see people come together and make a difference.”