MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

October 24, 2013

Students learn anti-bully techniques

By Travis Sloat
Phoenix Staff Writer

— TAHLEQUAH — Nicole Voelkel told Grand View youths that by working together, they could make a big difference in their school.

“When 100 people get together and do something, it makes a big difference,” Voelkel said. “It can be challenging to change the culture of a school, but we have seen this be successful.”

Voelkel, a speaker for Rachel’s Challenge, spoke Thursday afternoon to 100 volunteers from the sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade classes at Grand View Schools about being Friends of Rachel, a group of students on a campus meant to equip and inspire individuals to replace acts of violence, bullying and negativity with acts of respect, kindness and compassion.

The group is named after Rachel Scott, who was the first victim of the Columbine school shootings in 1999. Her father, Darrell, founded the organization, which is based on a “code of ethics” that Rachel wrote shortly before she was killed.

T.J. Bailey, 14, said he learned a lot through the presentations and instruction.

“I’ve learned that no matter what, there’s always a way to help someone,” he said. “And just because you think it might be cheesy at the time doesn’t mean the method you choose to help won’t work. You never know when someone needs a friend or a hug, and that’s your job to go and do that and see if you can help.”

He also said he thought the presentation would have an immediate impact on the school.

“I think it will help from a bullying standpoint,” he said. “I think this is a great thing, and I know it’s already helped a lot of schools.”

During the training session, Voelkel discussed different methods of intervention when students spotted bullying at their school. Bullying doesn’t just take place on school grounds, it can also happen on social media and in other places, she said. She emphasized working together to create an atmosphere of kindness.

Cheryl Beaman, the federal programs director at Grand View, said the presentation was a part of the school’s anti-bullying month.

“It’s been powerful seeing these kids stand up and talk about what they’ve gone through,” she said. “Some of them have broken down about troubles in their own lives. I had no idea what our kids had experienced. You sit next to these kids every day and yet you don’t always know what they’ve gone through.”

Beaman said the main point of the training was to help the youths “become better citizens.”

“There are lots of adverse child situations in our county,” she said. “Things like abuse and divorce. We want to use this training to remind them to keep the good things going. It’s really exciting for me to walk around and see all the kids working together on something.”

Reach Travis Sloat at (918) 684-2908 or tsloat@muskogeephoenix.com.