By Will Frierson

Clarksdale-group-lgOn a recent March Saturday, nearly 30 students showed up at Coahoma County Higher Education Center in Clarksdale, Miss., to learn about being upstanders—a term for those who stand up to bullies and bullying.

Facilitating the summit were Melody Frierson, Winter Institute Youth Engagement co-coordinator, and three Institute interns: Hunter Pace, Quezdon Nash, and Hope Owens-Wilson. The response to the activities Frierson organized was so positive that she launched a similar bullying program the following week for students ages four to seven.

After opening with a set of trust exercises and icebreakers, the students participated in a story circle and watched the 2011 documentary film, Bully, which illustrates how harmful bullying can be. The students particularly responded to the story of a young boy who committed suicide because of the bullying he faced daily: They concluded that one person standing up for him might’ve stopped the young boy’s pain.

The students were encouraged to engage in a moment of self-reflection that fed into a role-playing exercise focused on bullying intervention. Participants were divided into small groups with certain individuals, chosen by the Institute facilitators, to adopt the role of either a bully or a target. Once each group had created and performed their skit, students were led through a larger group discussion centered on the many roles involved in bullying (target, perpetrator, bystander, and upstander) and the importance of intervening in safe and effective ways.

Institute interns Nash, Owens-Wilson, and Pace also introduced the students to the Summer Youth Institute, the Institute’s flagship Youth Engagement program, as a place attendees could broaden their new knowledge.

In their own words, some things that stuck with the students from the Delta Youth Summit focused on bullying:

“I really want to do more and I NEED to do more.”

“Listen. Care. Love.”

“Break the silence but not the peace.”

“It only takes one person.”

“Be an upstander and inform the bully that they are doing wrong.”

The Winter Institute is proud of our upstanding Mississippi Delta youth!

Will Frierson is a freshman intern from Southaven, Miss.

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