WCATY Student Runs Anti-Bullying Camp

 

I believe that as youth, we hold the greatest power to create change in our world. And so when I found out that 90% of students in grades 4-8 worldwide have either witnessed or experienced bullying in school, I decided to create an anti-bullying camp called Step Up Against Bullying and Violence to reduce that number in my own community. 

The idea stemmed from my own experiences. When I was younger, my family moved from India to Helena, Montana, where we were one of the few Indian families. After the 9/11 attacks, people acted out toward us and the other Indian families because they thought we were somehow affiliated with the tragedy. Through their words and actions they told us, “Go back to your country; we don’t want you here.”

The Indian community set up a booth at the annual fair to educate others about Indian culture and tradition, and to show that we came in peace. We sold Indian food, tied saris, and taught festive songs and dances to everyone who stopped by. By the end of the day, we had raised over $1,000, which we donated to the public schools. The most important lesson I took away from that experience was this: People need to be educated in order to make good decisions. Since people in Helena weren’t completely aware of our culture, they had simply judged us based on our appearance.

Tara Serebin, executive director of the Milwaukee Peace Learning Center, became my project advisor; she took me to one of the organization’s peace camps so I could experience an event similar to the one I was planning. I also attended the Youth Peace Conference in Arizona last summer, where I presented my project to more than 40 youth ambassadors from around the world and received suggestions I incorporated into my camp.

I held my camp earlier this winter, in Glendale, Wisconsin, for 100 middle school girls. I financed it with $2,000 in grants from Youth Service of America and the KEDs Brave Life Project. My goal was to empower girls to stand up for each other and be more confident. The program featured presentations by a Milwaukee police officer on an anti-bullying curriculum that his department created; Jill Wesensel, author of  “Confidence in Conflict for Campus Life”; and a Glendale police officer discussing cyber-bullying. Yoga instructors led sessions on stress-reduction, and breakout sessions highlighted ways to promote peace and reduce bullying, such as blogging, singing, and creating murals.

 

After hearing of the camp, other schools approached me about conducting similar events. I plan to continue my efforts, which I hope will create a chain reaction that will help change the world.

 

Ananya Murali is a junior at Shorewood High School, in Shorewood, Wisconsin. She has taken four WCATY online Academy classes and has blogged in the past for Curious Minds. She created Step Up Against Bullying and Violence as part of her effort to earn the Girl Scouts' highest achievement, the Gold Award.

 

 

 

 

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