FRANKFORT – Lincoln-Way East High School students are linking together to create awareness of bullying.
Hanging from the ceiling of the hallways of the Frankfort high school are light blue chain links with the names of students on one side and a positive word or statement on the other. The project was started by the Be the Change student club.
“[The chains] represents that we’re all against bullying together, and everyone makes a pledge,” said Kate Wardenburg, student and club member.
Wardenburg is one of almost 100 students who are part of the Be the Change club. Members of the club – who are nominated by teachers – seek to make East’s student environment more inclusive and prevent bullying.
Last year, Be the Change members encouraged students to visualize their pledge to prevent bullying by painting hand prints on a wall inside the school cafeteria. The wall bears hand prints in shades of blue, accompanied by the words “Be The Change.”
Wardenburg said that every year, the club grows larger in membership and its causes are more relatable to students because it is run by students.
“There’s a difference between a teacher saying bullying is not good and your own peers saying, ‘Guys, this is not cool,’” she said.
Megan Hussey, another student member, said students will say the phrase “Be the change” to other students who say something rude, even when what they say is a joke. She said the phrase gets across the point of people needing to be mindful of what they say.
“We have a positive environment at our school. Bullying is not something you see often,” Hussey said. “It’s also about spreading the message about bullying online and out of school.”
Besides the chain links and hand prints, East students wore blue clothes last week in honor of anti-bullying efforts. Last year, Be the Change club members wrote positive notes to every student in school.
Be the Change has launched its chain link project as part of National Bullying Prevention Month. The campaign was founded in 2006 by PACER National Bullying Prevention Center. It is held in October to unite communities nationwide to educate and raise awareness of bullying prevention.
Jayson Polad, East student activities coordinator, said Be the Change has evolved to do more than just prevent bullying and makes the school more inclusive. Club members are focused on ensuring everyone feels they are part of the school and community.
“It enhances the anti-bullying message,” Polad said.