Elwood Middle School students learned an important lesson about bullying during an Anti-Defamation League No Place for Hate assembly on Nov. 12.
Led by Tom Murphy, co-founder of Sweethearts and Heroes, students learned about the five “bully buttons:” perspective, hope, sweethearts, jump into action and heroes.
Sweethearts and Heroes is made up of motivational speakers who work to help educate students about the impact bullying has on schools, neighborhoods and individuals. Additionally, the team teaches the importance of bystander empowerment, empathy and leadership.
The first step is to recognize the four characteristics of bullying: habitual, intimidation, preying on smaller or weaker people and intentional. Mr. Murphy explained that in order to eradicate bullying, students must share the same perspective. He proceeded to ask the middle schoolers “do people who get bullied deserve it?” Not a single student raised their hand. Yet, 60% of approximately 50 million public school students do in fact believe that to be true. The reason being, most students, when asked the question, are not thinking about their peers sitting next to them. Instead, they are thinking about their friends and family.
He added that every person has the ability to spread H.O.P.E., which he said stands for “hold on, possibilities exist.”
“You’re the solution,” Mr. Murphy said. “You’re the key to solving it forever.”
To drive that message home, he passed the microphone to his friend and colleague, Rick Yarosh, a retired U.S. Army sergeant whose body was severely burned after his tank was blown up in Iraq in 2006. Mr. Yarosh explained that we all have the ability to be sweethearts, or “carriers of hope.” Those who act on those notions are known as heroes.
“I’m here to let all of you know what you’re capable of. What you can do for other people. What you have inside of you. That thing called hope,” he said.
Principal Christina Sapienza explained that the assembly was organized and paid for by the Elwood Middle School Parent Teacher Association as a way to kick off the school’s Anti-Defamation League: No Place for Hate Campaign. Students learned about the No Place for Hate Pledge in their social studies classes earlier this month and signed the pledge during their lunch periods on Nov.12. Students will continue the great work of this organization in their Knights of the Round Table, or KORT, classes, where they will learn how to be an ally.
Following the assembly, Mr. Yarosh and Mr. Murphy spent the rest of the day at the middle school and ran breakout sessions for students and staff to empower them further to create environments of hope and respect.