“We Belong!” – An Anti-Bullying Campaign
The kids at Lincoln Middle School (LMS) have taken matters into their own hands! When asked what the biggest problems that students were facing at school, during the Washington Prevention Summit in Yakima in November of 2017, it wasn’t hard for the attending 24 members of the LMS Kindness Club to answer: it’s bullying and unkind behavior.
The Kindness Club began in the fall of 2015 with the intention of creating a stronger culture of kindness to reduce stress and ultimately lower the risk of kids using drugs and alcohol. The Kindness Club now consists of 40 members from students in both the 7th and 8th grades, lead by two Youth Advisors who oversee the process. The students meet every Friday for half an hour to plan pro-social activities and implement campaigns to promote kindness and to prevent destructive behaviors.
The activities are funded by the local coalition named Clarkston EPIC (Empowering People & Impacting Choices) and by the Clarkston School District. The mission of the EPIC coalition is to empower people with knowledge to build a more resilient and protective community for the well-being of our youth. As a part of that mission, the inclusion of youth being part of the solution, is vital.
One of their solutions? An anti-bullying campaign called, “We Belong.” This is the new culture being created at Lincoln Middle School, and one that is being built to last with support from everyone, from teachers to the superintendent of the district. The “We Belong” idea was founded on the basis that all humans have an innate need to feel like they belong. The lack of civility and unkind behavior that commonly swirls around a middle school environment eats away at the core of that feeling, and so these students decided to do something about it. “We Belong” signs, and posters made by students promoting inclusion, grace the hallways at LMS as a reminder to include and be kind to everyone. Word of mouth has spread, and this message is now resonating at the elementary level and even in the high school. The ultimate goal of the campaign is to help students feel taken care of, safe to be themselves, and have a strong sense of belonging.
Some examples of pro-social activities include:
- “Mix-it-up Lunch” where students sit with kids they don’t usually sit with
- Playing Bingo at lunch
- Making Gingerbread houses together
- Outdoor games
- High Fives in the hallway
- Celebrations once a month for those who have no Choice Cards (Choice Cards are given out when a student makes a bad choice)
As a result of these efforts, fewer and fewer kids are receiving choice cards and the celebrations just keep getting bigger. More and more kids want to be involved in the Kindness Club, as it is seen as an honor. Kids who want to participate must maintain a C average or better, inspiring kids to get, or keep their grades up. Six members of the Kindness Club will compete with this yearlong project at the Spring Youth Conference in Grand Mound, Washington, in May.
Now when a student is disciplined for unkind behavior, a strong message is sent conveying that we don’t tolerate that here, we all belong to the same team. We all deserve to belong. A side effect of this heartfelt message, is that it reminds us as adults to be kind as well; kind to others, kind to ourselves, and to live with a little more grace and humility. These kids are a shining example of how each and every one of us can make a difference, and how to make this world a little brighter place to live in.
by Kristi Sharpe, CPP Community Coordinator, Clarkston EPIC (Empowering People & Impacting Choices)
Kristi Sharpe, CPP, is a Certified Prevention Professional with 9 years of substance abuse prevention experience working with communities in creating an environment where youth thrive and cope in healthy ways. Kristi received her Associates Degree from Walla Walla Community College and earned her CPP in May of 2015. She is employed by Asotin County Community Services and is the coordinator for prevention efforts in Clarkston, WA.