By ANTHONY SPAULDING
Director of Communications
Pope John XXIII Regional High School
SPARTA — There are tons of messages out there today to advise children to help prevent bullying from happening in schools.
Then, there are messages like the one Pope John XXIII Middle School’s Stand Against Bullying Club will be sending on Wednesday during the Center for Prevention and Counseling’s 16th annual "Taking Flight to Change" summit held at Sparta High School.
The club will present a video that it put together showing how bullying can really happen anywhere and that everyone has the power to stop it, no matter how old they are.
“I think it is a cool and creative way to get our word out about Stand Against Bullying and what can happen,” Pope John XXIII Middle School seventh grade student and SAB member Ashley Ingoglia said. “It’s a way to help change the community around us.”
“This is a different approach than just saying, ‘Stop bullying!’” added seventh grade student Matthew Compa, who is also a member of SAB. “This gives people more of a visual of how to handle it.”
The Pope John Middle School SAB club formed last year as a spinoff of Pope John XXIII Regional High School’s SAB club, which was created after 2015 Pope John graduate Sarah Allison Bramley committed suicide in August 2016.
During one of the club’s meetings, the members talked about what ways they could spread the message about bullying prevention outside of school. So, with the help from 2017 Pope John graduate Finley King, they decided to create a 1-minute, 50-second video for the club in which they role played bullying scenarios that could occur and how to handle them.
They felt this video was a better way to get the message across to their peers from all over the county and beyond rather than repeating what they heard from adults at past events on bullying.
“I feel like this helps a lot,” seventh grade student and SAB member Luke Gang said. “We have a thousand bullying seminars and stuff that say the same things, but the video makes it different for us and could really make a change.”
“When kids go to assemblies about bullying, I usually hear them say, ‘Oh, that was a waste of time,’” Compa said. “But, we think that if kids are addressing it and we’re putting the effort into it, they might take it more seriously.”
After the video was made, Pope John XXIII Middle School Principal Mrs. Susan Santore watched it and was so impressed by it that when she was asked by the Center for Prevention and Counseling if the middle school would like to speak during the summit, she volunteered them to present the video.
The Center for Prevention and Counseling also watched the video and it approved the club to present the video at the summit. The annual summit brings together about 900 students in grades 6-8 — and nearly 200 high school student mentors — from public, private and parochial schools throughout Sussex County for a day of inspirational speakers, performances and team-building activities aimed at helping them develop anti-bullying action plans to take back to their respective schools.
“I could not be any prouder of these guys,” Mrs. Santore said of the club earning its spot to present at the summit. “I know I have stood up in front of the kids to tell them (about bullying) and they have heard from other adults, but just the fact that they have stepped up to be leaders and have chosen to be a voice for all the students in the school is amazing. Empowering them to make this video and send this message will make a difference in the school climate.”
One thing for sure is that this club is looking forward to letting its actions speak louder than its words on Wednesday.
“I think it’s a great opportunity because I love that we as students are sending the message,” seventh grade student and SAB member Katie Clifford said. “We have a chance to have people listen to what we have to say.”
“When kids hear about the topic, they think it can never happen to them,” Ingoglia said. “By us showing that it can happen and that it has happened here can help them come to reality and figure out how to stop it.”