Northwest kids speak out against bullying

This weekend the 19th Annual Each One, Reach One, to Teach One Youth Summit hosted over 150 children and their families throughout the region. The event included a panel discussion by anti-bullying advocates, an essay contest and a festival with a DJ, food and activities for children.

Hosted at the Mt. Airy Church of God in Christ, located at 6401 Ogontz Ave., the open discussion format invited guests to share their stories. Advice was given from all angles of the bullying spectrum; parents, victims and former bullies discussed how to resolve bullying issues in their schools and communities.

Larry C. Raye, coordinator of the Youth Summit, said he is proud that the summit is in its nineteenth year.

“There are people here today from all over the city,” said Raye. “This problem is pervasive in all of our communities as it crosses socioeconomic lines and races. Everyone is affected and it takes a toll on our children.”

He says the central goal of the summit is to teach children how to protect themselves from a bully and to remember to talk to their parents and adults for help.

“Parents are the key to everything,” said Raye.

For the summit’s Rising Star Awards essay contest, Raye says the judges look for children who “are able to express themselves on the topic of bullying.” Contestants must also possess a strong academic background and demonstrate involvement in their community.

“We had a great turnout of essays,” said Raye. “We actually allowed four winners this year because the essays were that good.”

The contest includes three categories; children ages nine to 11, 12 to 14 and 15 to 18. Participants were asked to define their idea of a bully and to discuss the impact of bullying in their community, including their ideas for solutions.

A handful of government affiliates turned out for the summit including Eighth District Councilwoman Cindy Bass, Margaret Wright, coordinator at Ninth District Councilwoman Marian B. Tasco’s office and Tonyelle Cook-Artis, chief of staff for Rep. Cherelle Parker.

“We’re here to celebrate the youth summit and really, to celebrate the kids,” said Bass. “We want them to start their summer in a positive direction with the right mindset. They need role models and to know that we support them.”

Isabella Fitzgerald, chairwoman for the Northwest CommUnity Coalition for Youth (N.C.C.Y.), spoke at the event about the need for more adult activism in the lives of children.

“Our mission is to keep young people safe,” said Fitzgerald. “Parents need to pay attention to their kids and start asking questions.”

The N.C.C.Y. is a network of community activists, faith based organizations, businesses, elected officials, school officials and law enforcement that work to impact the lives of young people through events like youth forums.

Fitzgerald says many victims of bullying are left with low self-esteem, which can lead to drastic changes in their behavior and in some cases, suicide.

“Being bullied can destroy a person,” said Fitzgerald.

Elethia Gay, community outreach coordinator at N.C.C.Y., says the group is “a resource for children and parents” and notes that someone “will be there to listen and help” on their Safe Haven Hotline at 215-276-7239.

“Everyone here has a passion for this,” said Vernon Smith, member of N.C.C.Y. and legislative assistant to Rep. Dwight Evans. “We are here to help and to act as a preventative measure against bullying and its effects on kids.”

Valerie Shannon, representative for Physicians for Social Responsibility, a nonprofit group that promotes interpersonal violence prevention through educational initiatives as well as global health issues, spoke about the need for more community involvement.

“Our goal is to go into the community and bring healing to families,” said Shannon. She expressed that building a strong family goes hand-in-hand with building a strong community.

For more information visit:

Northwest CommUnity Coalition for Youth at www.nccy.org

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