Striving for unity
Posted on: Oct 27, 2017
Thanks to a group of students in Delano High School’s COMPASS class, this year’s observation of Unity Day included a variety of practical activities and instructions that equipped individuals to stop bullying.
Unity Day was held nationwide on Wednesday, Oct. 25, as part of National Bullying Prevention Month, and aside from the symbolic act of wearing orange, Delano high schoolers engaged with the spirit of the day on a deeper level.
First, COMPASS students handed out orange slips of paper to each class on which every student wrote an “I will” statement explaining how they would take a stand against abusive behavior and make the school a safer place. After the slips were collected, COMPASS students connected each of them into a large chain that was hung from the ceiling near the cafeteria.
“This is the first year that we’ve done (Project Connect), but we’re going to be continuing it throughout the next few years,” said junior Tori Nelson. “We clipped all the statements together as a visual message that we are all connected against bullying.”
The Compass class also hung a large banner in the commons that said, “Together we are stronger.”
“It’s to show that we’re all united against bullying, and really anyone can make a difference by just standing up,” said junior Julia Egly.
In addition to Project Connect, the class also made announcements during the day that included tips about what to do when bullying takes place, strategies for standing up against it, and more. Junior Megan Bruzek said that Delano, like all schools, is not exempt from cases of bullying.
“So it clearly has to be addressed. Those kids have to know that there are people there for them,” she said. “They’re not standing alone.”
COMPASS instructor Marie Techam said the “I will” statements and other information helped students who have not experienced bullying personally get involved.
“This includes them and says, ‘Here are things you can do to stand up to help others,’” she said. “We’re all united together to figure out ways to help each other.”
The idea for Project Connect came from the PACER Center organization, which started Unity Day in 2011. Delano’s COMPASS students spent a few weeks preparing Project Connect, writing scripts for announcements, putting up posters and kindness messages in the hallways, and more.
COMPASS stands for Character, Opportunity, Mentorship, Perseverance, Academics, Service and Success. Techam said the class includes a variety of volunteer projects, including efforts with groups like Love INC and Feed My Starving Children. Its members also organize an annual suicide awareness and prevention day that includes various speakers each winter.
“We’re really proud of the program. I think it has helped a lot of kids, and that is something that we are committed to in Delano,” said Techam.
Nelson said that being a part of COMPASS is a valuable experience.
“I just love how you’re able to be very open and honest about your life,” she said. “If you have problems you always have support from your peers and teachers. You know you have the COMPASS group behind you to build you back up if you fall down. It helps different people in different ways. People bring what’s going on in their lives, and everyone is helped by everyone else there.”
Techam said that is exactly what the group hopes to accomplish.
“The point of COMPASS is that everyone has a story to tell and they are all unique stories, and they deserve a safe place to talk about what’s happening in their life and how to work through some of the things that they are facing,” she said.
Of course the ideal situation is that the school at large would have a similarly supportive atmosphere, and Unity Day aims to accomplish that goal.
“School should be your safe spot, but if bullying is happening it’s not going to be that safe spot,” said Bruzek.
All goals are accomplished one step at a time, and Techam said this year’s COMPASS class has been a positive force in spreading and explaining the message of Unity Day like never before.
“We have a good group right now to make Unity Day into a school-wide event,” she said. “We are definitely going to continue doing this each year and getting the message out.”