Students at Cedar Springs Middle School received a wake-up call Tuesday, May 8, when a group from the Kent County Mental Health Foundation visited their school to present an assembly for a campaign known as be nice. The goal is to open the eyes of young students in communities across Michigan to help them realize how large of a problem bullying is.
The presentation started out by showing a video created by the State of Michigan Surgeon General. The video, created using only text, pictures, and music, showed many teens across Michigan who had taken their lives because of bullying.
According to Christy Buck, Executive Director of the Mental Health Foundation, suicide is the second highest cause of death among teens and college students in Kent County. Buck said that statistic is higher than both the national and state statistic, where it’s the third leading cause of death. Bullying is often a precipitating factor to suicide.
“Talking about it helps prevent it, and students need to recognize the factors that contribute to it. We wanted to take a proactive approach and operate on the model that everybody needs to be nice, rather than anti-bullying, or saying don’t do this or that,” she explained. “We target the 80 percent that are good kids and give them the tools and ammunition to make it work.”
Together, students had brainstorm sessions during the assembly to think of ways that they can keep making a difference in their school. Students were able to think of different events and activities that they could do at school to help eliminate bullying.
This Friday, May 11, CSMS students will be wearing white in memory of those who have been bullied or to those who may have taken their lives because of bullying. At a designated time, the students will all conglomerate in the field next to the middle school as a helicopter does a flyover and take aerial pictures. The helicopter flyover is also a part of the be nice. campaign and will also be traveling to other schools across west Michigan the same day.
Earlier this year, Cedar Springs High School also had a presentation similar to the be nice. campaign. Speaker Laurie Stewart, from LA Stewart Presentations, in Kalamazoo, came to talk to students about being the difference in their school. This assembly seemed to really open the eyes of many students at CSHS. Following Laurie’s presentation, a climate group was created. This group consists of about 20 students from different cliques in the high school. The idea of this group is to keep students from forgetting about what they learned during the assembly; to keep students from losing their motivation to change the climate of the school.
Students can make the difference as long as they are willing to work for it; one step at a time, students can be the change they want to see.
Autumn Fish is a junior at Cedar Springs High School. Post Editor Judy Reed also contributed to this story.