CHESTER – Members of the Chester Academy Bullying Committee met with the school board at its February meeting to discuss an anti-bullying conference they attended in the fall.
Four members, Samuel Weider, Makayla Bolduc, Elizabeth Veale and Eddie Stuart, spoke for the larger group who attended the Stand Up New Hampshire conference in November. They attended with vice principal Karen Lacroix and fifth grade teacher Shawne Hilliard.
According to the students, the conference was an eye opening experience and inspired them to stand up for others and to spread the word against bullying.
The event was held at the University of New Hampshire and saw middle and high school students from across the state participate.
Weider and Stuart led the group through a PowerPoint presentation with pictures of the event and biographies of the main speakers. The speaker most focused on was Lizzie Velasquez, a 24-year-old college student born with a rare disease that prevents her from accumulating any body fat. According to the Chester students, Velasquez told them about her struggles growing up and looking different than her classmates, and while there were a host of painful experiences in her life, she said she wouldn’t change her condition, as it has propelled her to reach out and help others.
The conference has prompted the group to discuss ways to raise awareness of bullying in their own school. One of the initiatives already undertaken was the creation of an interactive bulletin board in the hallway. They also spoke about the importance of being aware of bullying and making sure to support those who are bullied.
Principal Leslie Leahy and members of the school board asked questions about the students’ experience at the event.
All said they had not realized how serious of an issue bullying was, and how deeply it could impact victims. They also discussed the dangers of technology when it came to bullying, and how the internet can spread the cruel things people say and do to each other farther than ever before.
Weider spoke about the labels peers and others put on students, such as the popular kid, or the band kid, or the smart kid, and how students should not let those labels restrict whom they choose as friends.
The Chester Bullying Committee members hope to make their school a safe and welcoming place where everyone has a sense of belonging, and a place where bullying will not be tolerated. Their motto is “Take A Stand, Lend A Hand.”