ALPENA - Mya Bellanger, a fourth grade student at Besser Elementary, has started an anti-bullying campaign to help stop bullying in her school. One day in class, Bellanger noticed a fellow student being bullied, which spurred her into action.
"I wanted to make it stop," Bellanger said. "I went home and talked to my mom about it and we came up with ideas for things to do at school."
Bellanger said they found the idea for a Unity Day where everyone could wear orange to show they would stick up to bullying, and came up with a few other ideas such as a paper chain with different ways to stop bullying written on every link. All the fourth grade students at Besser also colored posters about bullying.
"It's neat to see it working," Bellanger said. "Everybody deserves respect, even if they're not like everyone else."
Once Bellanger came up with a plan and wrote down points she wanted to make, she and her mom presented them to Principal Eric Cardwell, who thought it was a good idea and helped set Bellanger's plan into action.
"I thought it was a great idea. This is what we want to see happening, students taking ownership of a project," Cardwell said. "It helps them see that they can change something in school, and they could go on to change something in the community, the state, the country and the world. It's definitely one of the high points in my job."
Bellanger said she already is planning for Unity Day next year and has a few ideas, such as involving all of Alpena Public Schools and getting everyone to wear orange. Cardwell hinted that a possible anti-bullying poster contest may be happening at the school sometime this year to keep up the awareness.
"It's very cool to see kids take ownership of their ideas and have the support of parents," Cardwell said. "It's important to have support about wanting to change something. It affirms in the children a spirit that they can make a difference locally and socially."
Each classroom at Besser was invited to sign a large anti-bullying banner, made by Bellanger and a friend, and take a pledge to stand up against bullying.
"Some people just say mean things, and some people laugh when somebody gets hurt," Bellanger said. "If anybody is getting bullied, you should tell an adult."
Bellanger said it feels really good to have her ideas put into action to help stop bullying.
"I like to do this because there are lots of people that are getting their feelings hurt," she said. "I wanted to make that difference. Kids take a pledge to help stop bullying, and if they sign the banner, they get a ribbon."
There are over 300 links on the orange anti-bullying Unity Day chain in the entrance at Besser Elementary, and each one has a way to stop bullying written on them. Bellanger's link reads "bullying is never OK."
Nicole Grulke can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5687.
Follow Nicole on Twitter @ng_alpenanews.