Imagine being in a small, agricultural town in rural North Carolina in the late 1970s and early 1980s where the two main social outlets for all ages were a Hardees and a Village Inn pizzeria. Furthermore, consider a town with only one large county high school and a Baptist church in which you actually know every single person who attends. This beautiful town nestled in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains in Alexander County was where my childhood really began.
My adolescent journey began at Taylorsville Elementary where I realized I was “different” as one of only four Asian children. Children can be extremely cruel and being different as a child meant many times being ostracized by others from children stretching their eyes at me and calling me racial slurs to just sticking out their tongue at me. Fortunately, I grew up with very supportive family, friends, and counselors/teachers and learned early on the benefits of applying myself academically. Many of today’s children are not so fortunate to have people who help them though these tough phases of their lives.
I believe bullying could possibly be the least noticed but most widely spread issue for today’s youth. They say it takes a village to raise a child. However, counselors and teachers alone can’t be and shouldn’t be responsible for raising our community’s youth. Many times, children learn their prejudices from their parents and other close adults. As a parent of two children, I hope we all aim to be aware of people who may be considered different including gender, sexual orientation, religion, ethnic background, disability, and socio-economic status for starters. This means focusing on discussing these differences with our children and helping them learn about and respect the differences within others.
Encourage our children to stand up for others as well and not be accomplices to bullying or a bystander. Students Taking A Right Stand (STARS) is an organization that does just that and so much more. STARS counselors within schools work with students who come to them from self, peer, and teacher referrals and the counselors help students better understand themselves and their peers. One such program STARS uses with its high school groups is called “Move 2 Stand.” This highly successful program targets bullying and educates all participants on both sides.
Ultimately, we all have a responsibility to stop bullying. The aftershocks of unresponsiveness are incomprehensible and end in horrid things like school shootings. Not educating our children, not leading as an example, and not helping our students cope with peer issues, are just NOT acceptable. Now, imagine a town without bullying.
Governor Phil Bredesen has proclaimed November 14-20 “Bullying Awareness Week” joining STARS in making an important difference in the lives of our teens. If you or anyone with whom you have contact needs help with bullying, be their advocate, contact STARS and you could make a difference in preventing a drastic and unnecessary outcome. On Wednesday, November 10 at 6:45 p.m., there will be a Bullying Prevention Workshop for Parents and Teens at Bethlehem United Methodist Church open to the public.(www.bethlehemumc.org) On November 11, Vince Gill & Friends are holding a STARS Benefit Concert. Visit www.starsnashville.org for more information.