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Hawthorn Academy students rescue classmates from bullying

Feb 10, 2017 11:42AM ● Published by Jet Burnham

 The students who are working to earn a Buddy Bench for their school: Amanda Bullock, Grace Beazer, Ciceley Brentel, Jadiah Costello, Ivy Pullan and Jayda Alverson (Keesha Brentel)

Gallery: Hawthorn Academy students rescue classmates from bullying [3 Images] Click any image to expand.

By Jet Burnham | j.burnham@mycityjournals.com

Regan Cox has been bullied in the past and wants to make sure it doesn't happen to anyone else, so she started an Anti-Bullying Committee, or ABC, at Hawthorn Academy in West Jordan.

“Some people think that they're not a bully, but if you watch their actions, they are,” Regan said. Having been a victim, she knows it when she sees it.

Her mother, Melanie Cox, said the school has a strict policy against it, but bullying still happens. She is proud of her daughter.

“She is tender-hearted and doesn't like to see people hurt or uncomfortable,” Cox said. Regan's committee is comprised of like-minded seventh- and eighth-grade girls. Their goal is to make sure everybody feels safe and has a friend.

“We have a big part in school to be all connected in a good way,” said Regan. Regan’s ABC is not all talk either. The spunky seventh-grader actually stopped a playground fight. While other kids watched a boy get tackled, Regan and her friend Melanie intervened. 

 “Something kind of clicked off in my head— ‘I need to go,’” said Regan, when she saw the commotion.

She was a small seventh-grader, standing up to eighth grade boys, but she believes, “No matter how small you are or how big you are, you can stop it.”

Administration, students and teachers were impressed. Regan said when the school’s Peer Leadership Team heard about what happened they said, “That seventh-grade girl is a hero!’” 

Regan and Melanie were rewarded for their heroic actions by being allowed to wear everyday clothes to school. The two seventh-graders stood out that day in a school that requires uniforms.

“We knew people were looking at us and saying we were heroes and thinking ‘we should have done that,’” said Regan.

Salli Robinson is the school counselor and adviser for the committee. She believes the charter school has a different dynamic than neighborhood schools. Most students arrive at Hawthorn not knowing any other kids there.

“A lot of bullying comes from not understanding people around us,” said Robinson. “Once you know someone, they don't seem that different.”

The ABC believes they can prevent bullying by encouraging students to widen their circle of friends. 

Committee member Sabrina Taylor said lunch was a particularly hard time when adjusting to her new school. 

“I was sitting with people but was still by myself,” said Sabrina.

The committee came up with Nobody Eats Alone Days to create awareness of including others.

On these days, they encourage kids to sit with someone new at lunch. In February, the committee will also host lunch activities and games to help kids get to know new people.

The goal is clear: “To make sure everyone has a friend,” said Regan

The committee meets weekly in Robinson’s office. 

“It is very self-directed,” said Robinson. “They want to make sure everyone feels safe.”

Meetings are spent discussing how the committee can broaden its scope. The committee performs skits for school assemblies, educating students about what bullying is and what to do when they see it happening. They’ve also made posters to remind students to stand up and speak out when they see bullying. They hope their education will help students monitor each other’s behavior and help them be able to spot bullying and stop it quickly.

Being a part of ABC has directly benefited the committee members. Robinson says these girls, who tend to be shy, are now more proactive.

“I feel like I have friends now, and it’s easier for me to consider what other people are thinking,” said Keslee Lake, a seventh-grader on the committee.

When Regan first started middle school, she was a little scared. After her act of heroism, she realized it wasn’t that hard.

“I was more confident in what I was doing and more confident in what I was saying,” said Regan.

Robinson is very impressed with Regan. 

“The normal developmental stage at this age is to worry what others think,” said Robinson. “But she's very much her own person.” One thing she knows for sure about Regan: “She's going to do what is right.”

“I want to make sure we are all equal and safe,” said Regan. “I'm working hard because I love this school.”

But Regan and her ABC are not the only heroes at Hawthorn Academy. 

“We have amazing kids here that are looking out for other people,” said Robinson. Another student also decided to take action to improve the school.

Ciceley’s mother, Keesha Brentel, explained Ciceley’s idea to help her younger sister soon blossomed into a way to help all students who struggle to make friends at a new school. Livia Brentel told her family she wished there were swings on the playground. Swinging was an activity she loved to do and could be done alone. Ciceley decided to fundraise to get swings installed on the playground. Several of her friends got on board, and they looked into what needed to be done. That’s when they discovered the concept of a Buddy Bench. 

Ivy Pullen, a sixth-grader on the committee, said the bench helps kids find someone to play with.

“So, nobody will be alone at recess,” added Ciceley.

Robinson, who also advises this group of exceptional students, explained the concept of the bench.

“A buddy bench is a place where a student who is feeling lonely and left out can sit,” she said. “Maybe they haven't been able to find a friend or someone to play with.” The Buddy Bench is helpful for kids who may not have the social skills to reach out to others, or for those who have had an argument and don’t know how to resolve it. Or, it might be for a new student who doesn’t know how to make friends. 

The Buddy Bench idea also teaches empathy.

“It helps students be more aware and inclusive,” said Robinson. “So if they're playing a game that could use one more person, they glance at the bench and notice someone needs to be included, they can invite them into their game.”

Robinson hosts this group in her office during lunch times, just as she does with ABC. She says both groups are student-driven and self-motivated. 

“Fifth-graders are used to immediate results, especially in this day and age,” said Robinson. But now more than a year into the process, the Buddy Bench team is still fundraising to round up enough money to purchase benches. The group of now sixth-graders started a school store this year. Tuesdays after school, they sell pens, erasers, stamps, stickers, bookmarks, headphones, journals and candy to the student body. 

Robinson said they are a dedicated group of kids, staying after school and taking responsibility for running the book store. 

“They are very self-motivated,” she said. “I couldn’t do it if they weren’t.”

The group had a penny-drive fundraiser in January and recently set up a GoFundMe page: https://www.gofundme.com/tyd7kf9g. The girls hope to earn enough money for a Buddy Bench for both the South Jordan and West Jordan campuses.

Robinson is proud of both these groups of students. 

“These kids are just motivated to do good,” she said. “It’s important for people to know there are good kids doing good things.” 

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