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QO Students Take Action Against Bullying

Read this story in The Town Courier

Recently, Quince Orchard (QO) High School senior Brandon Myers took a stand. Bullying, he determined, is something everyone should be aware of and help prevent. So, to spread what he felt was an important message, he spearheaded an effort that culminated with an anti-bullying assembly at the school on Oct. 23.

QO seniors John Quintas, Leanne Youstra, Josh Frieder, Remy Morris and Ellen Goldstein joined Myers in putting together the program for their fellow students.

During the assembly, students saw a PowerPoint presentation Myers had created that included three videos: the trailer to the movie “Bully”; an anti-bullying lip-dub (a popular new Internet video trend usually filmed in school in which participants lip-sync to music); and clips of quotes from QO students.

Two days later, the school held an advisory period — all teachers had a 20-minute class at the beginning of the day for students to recap the assembly, take a questionnaire, make slogans, and sign anti-bullying pledges to be hung around the school.

Myers’s inspiration for this project traces back to February 2012 when he saw “Bully” with his BBYO youth group. The documentary film follows the lives of five bullied teens.

“I saw the movie … and led a discussion about [it] with parents and teens in the D.C. area. Then I decided to take it to [QO],” he said. “Just watching the movie ‘Bully’ really pushed me to [start the project].”

Taking to heart the movie’s touching message, Myers spoke to QO Principal Carole Working at the end of the past school year and met with her over the summer to get a scheduled time on the school calendar.

“I started making the presentation in the summer. Then at the beginning of the year we met again and spoke about what was going on,” said Myers. “In October, I worked closely with [Assistant Principal Charles Banks].”

According to Banks, the effort was truly student-driven. “We just monitored the time and made sure the staff was aware of the date,” he said, “but it was all up to Brandon and his group.”

Myers said the project did not stem from a prevalence of bullying at his school. “[Bullying] hasn’t been such a big deal within the QO community,” he said.

“[The program came about] mostly because we wanted QO students to be aware about [bullying], to be aware about other students. … [We wanted this to be] a cause that QO stood … for and for the QO students to gain this knowledge and spreadthe awareness with everything they’re involved [in].”

Said Goldstein, “A lot of kids understand that bullying goes on but will never do anything about it because they fear doing something ‘uncool.’ The whole point of this program is that people shouldn’t be afraid to stand up for others, and that is something a lot of students don’t feel comfortable doing.”

Bullying, said Frieder, is something “a lot of people are affected by … and [is] not something to joke around about.” The project helped not only to spread awareness about the issue, but also fostered leadership in the six individuals who planned the assembly. “I learned that I could be in front of the school helping something, leading something, feeling comfortable doing that,” said Frieder. “I also learned that I can make a difference in issues.”

Agreed Goldstein, “I’ve had an amazing time working with people who share my ideals on bullying. … I’ve learned that you can make a difference by taking action.”

Banks reflected on the group’s efforts. “I think it shows that [today’s students] are very concerned and aware of some of the issues, and they want to make a difference,” he said.

After the assembly, Myers said, “I’ve seen QO students being aware about [bullying]. If people are getting bullied, others will say, ‘That’s bullying.’ It has made an impact within the first week, even.”

“The student body seemed very receptive to the anti-bullying movement. I think the pledge that they participated in really made things real for them,” said Goldstein. “Our main slogan was ‘We don’t do that here,’ and I’ve actually heard this phrase throughout the halls of QO, which is great.”

Banks agreed. “I think a lot of students are more willing to come forward and mention incidents of bullying,” he said. “They are more aware of their behavior and how they are perceived by their peers as well as the administration and the staff.”

Said Frieder, “I definitely know people got [something] from it. They definitely know about the ‘Bully’ movie and were touched by that.”

The experience of developing a program about something he believes in was rewarding for Myers, who encouraged others to become similarly active. “Do something that you stand for, that you personally connect with, and go with it, and never stop,” he said. “The most important thing is to spread awareness and educate people.”

Within the Gaithersburg community, teenagers are taking action and standing up for causes they believe in. These inspirational and proactive leaders remind us that nothing is stopping them — or anyone — from taking a stand and making a change.

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