By Susan Redden
CARTHAGE, Mo. —
Students at Carthage Middle School received lessons in identity, success, self-esteem and acceptance as part of an anti-bullying program presented in a school assembly Wednesday.
The instruction came from a group of young performers who urged youngsters to “stand up for themselves and stand up for each other” when they are confronted by bullying. The group, a part of Master’s Commission USA, started with a dance routine and presented the program in a series of talks and role-playing.
Though most of the stories told were based on the modern-day experiences of young people, one of the speakers touched on history with a quote from Abraham Lincoln: “I’d rather be a little nobody than an evil somebody.”
A member of the Dallas-based group is Yoni Herrera, who graduated from Carthage High School in 2008. He said he learned of the organization while living in Carthage and became a member three years ago. He said the group travels throughout the U.S. and recently has presented programs in Canada, Guatemala and El Salvador.
Herrera, who is 22, has a 19-year-old brother also with the troupe. His family still lives in Carthage, and his youngest brother is a student at Carthage High School.
He said he sees bullying as “a real problem” for youngsters that has been expanded by the Internet and social media.
Robin Jones, Carthage Middle School principal, said the program is part of a continuing effort to emphasize that bullying will not be accepted in the school.
“We try to be proactive and to keep it in front of students and teachers,” she said. “It’s something that needs to be talked about, so everyone knows what bullying looks like and how it feels.”
In addition to working with students individually and in groups, Carthage Middle School counselors go into the classrooms to teach lessons on bullying, Jones said.
“We take it very seriously, and that reinforces the message that we won’t stand for bullying,” she said. “We’re always putting that message out there.”
Travis Bolin, the middle school counselor who helped organize Wednesday’s program, said a student, after a similar program last year, came to him and asked for help to stop bullying other students.
“I worked with her the rest of the year, and I still keep track of her,” he said.
Bolin said he and another counselor go into classrooms to present programs comparing conflicts and bullying.
“A conflict isn’t bullying, but you can do things to make sure it doesn’t escalate into bullying,” he said.
THE CARTHAGE SCHOOL DISTRICT also is a part of the CharacterPlus program that works to advance character education in the schools.