Youngstown students spread message: Don’t be a bully
By SEAN BARRON
YOUNGSTOWN — Regardless of how long or in what ways one has suffered from being bullied, Malayshia Hugley knows that a little self-examination and positivity can go a long way toward counteracting it.
“Stand up for yourself,” the Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School seventh-grader advised. “Some people can call you ugly, and some people believe that stuff. Never believe you’re ugly.”
Malayshia was among those in grades four to eight who heard a series of anti-bullying messages that seven students on East High School’s Destination Imagination team shared with them Thursday afternoon at the school, 2724 Mariner Ave., on the East Side.
During the special program, themed “It’s Time for a Change,” the younger students were given blue and gold pieces of paper shaped like paw prints, which represent East High’s official colors and Golden Bears mascot.
They were instructed to write on them messages of encouragement or how they feel about being bullied or knowing someone who has. Malayshia’s message read, “You are beautiful, no matter what. God made you perfect.”
Words of encouragement also could be found on a paw-shaped paper that seventh-grader Emanuel Allinos wrote: “There is always someone who loves YOU for YOU.”
Taniya Wright, an East High 11th-grader and Destination Imagination member, said she’s suffered from bullying since childhood, in part by having been made fun of for her looks. It’s important that victims realize they’re not alone and that someone advocates for them, she explained.
“I took it to heart,” Taniya said. “I was like, ‘Why do you keep doing this to me?'”
It might be frightening, but it’s important to directly confront and call out bullies — especially because they have no idea what other challenges and difficulties their victims might be struggling with, she added.
“You never know what someone’s going through,” Taniya continued. “You have to be the bigger person.”
Offering a similar message was East High senior and fellow DI member Damico Jackson, who also said that bullying can take on a mob mentality. Some teens who otherwise would not target someone do so because of peer pressure or other reasons they feel compelled to follow a bully’s lead, he explained.
“People like to follow the crowds,” Jackson added.
It’s also imperative that those being bullied have the courage to tell a parent, teacher, guidance counselor or other trusted adult and help victims develop a positive outlook. In addition, they need to know they’re safe in opening up, he continued.
At one point during his brief talk, Jackson asked the students to raise their hands if they have been bullied or know someone who has. Nearly every hand went up.
Destination Imagination is a hands-on, creative process that offers seven challenges for members to work out. One is called Project Outreach, which in part enhances their critical-thinking skills while encouraging treating others with respect and kindness, noted Jeanne Constantino, an East High teacher and DI’s coach.
“The team is working on helping to stop bullying, because it is so prevalent in the schools and now on social media,” Constantino said, adding that her students also are taking their message to those at Harding, Taft and Williamson elementary schools, which, like Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary, are East High’s feeder schools.