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Irvington students present powerful anti-bullying message

By Miriam G. Mazliach

April 16, 2013

These days, the familiar nursery rhyme verse, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never harm me,” is not regarded in the same light. A lot has changed since it was first written in the 1870’s. People now recognize that you should not ignore bullying or turn the other cheek, because there is power in words and harmful repercussions result when used in a reckless or callous manner. In particular, with the easy access to social media, it is almost impossible for teens to escape negative comments, especially if targeted at them by others.

So, to focus on the serious and increasing issue of bullying and cyber-bullying, several students at Irvington High School in Fremont decided to confront this issue head-on for their Quest project. Quest is a program that Irvington senior year students are required to complete. They must select a learning project in an area of their own choosing, and then research, explore and experience all aspects of their topic in order to gain a fuller understanding of the subject. One of the components to be completed is that of “Service,” wherein students need to create an activity and share their newly gained knowledge with others.

That’s how Irvington students Robert R. Ritchie, Britlee Cox and Tina Huynh came to create the anti-bullying program and skits. All three had the idea to do an anti-bullying program and write a play about it. Sharing 6th period Advanced Theater/Drama 2 class, things came together pretty quickly. It only took about eight hours to input their ideas and write it out. They created three skits, connected to the central theme, which were presented in assemblies throughout the school day on April 9.

Providing guidance and assistance to the students as needed during this entire process were teachers Nancy Kirk and Scott DiLorenzo. For the performances, student Charlotte Chen handled the theatrical lighting.

In the first skit, a boy watches his girlfriend being bullied by a group of cheerleaders, who call her ugly and trip her, but the boy doesn’t intercede on her behalf. The girl continues to be picked on and cyber-bullied; she eventually leaves school and moves away. The boy voices his sadness in losing his best friend and realizes too late that he should have spoken up.

The second skit focuses on a young boy Michael who idolizes his older brother Billy, who is gay. Billy is set up and beaten up by a bully who continues to threaten him. Michael suspects something when his brother appears bruised and over time notices Billy becoming more and more withdrawn. But Michael doesn’t say anything and when Billy commits suicide, he is distraught and realizes that he should have told his parents.

The final skit tells the story of a sporty girl who loves to play football. She has a shy friend who doesn’t quite get why her friend wants to play such a rough sport. Other students harass the sporty girl, and continue to pick on her, even stealing and damaging her football equipment. The shy girl doesn’t stick up for her but learns too late that she should have told someone when her friend moves away to go to another school where she can be accepted.

After each skit, the student writers come on stage to address the audience and talk about what to do about bullying. “Bystanders must tell someone [if they see bullying or worse] and speak up. Talk to a teacher, counselor, vice principal, principal or parent.”

In addition, interspersed with the skits, are two powerful monologues related to other bullying experiences.

Adds teacher and coordinator Nancy Kirk, “People don’t know the effect that bullying has on others. This project [the students’ skits] is meant to bring the subject to light.”

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