Southwest celebrates end of year with No Bully program

Published 8:55 pm Tuesday, May 7, 2019

In addition to skateboard decks and frisbees, ESPN X Games brought a message encouraging kindness to middle schoolers Wednesday.

Albert Lea Area Schools is winding down on its first school year with No Bully, a program whose mission is to eradicate bullying and cyberbullying. Albert Lea Area Schools entered the partnership thanks to a grant from ESPN, which continued through the year.

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ESPN X Games host Brandon Graham asked students to look ahead, to their left and their right and remind themselves — and each other — that each of them matters.

He asked students who had experienced or seen bullying to raise their hands.

“Any time we go to a school … we see the same arms, the same amount gets raised because no one’s immune to it,” he said.

Graham showed a video of X Games competitor and skateboarder Jordyn Barratt, who shared briefly about being bullied when she was younger.

Robb Stites, ESPN and MLB account manager for No Bully, said the event was to recognize students’ hard work during the year with the program.

“We love to shred hate, but it’s really about choosing kindness,” Stites said.

Signs placed on bleacher seats and held by students during the assembly had anti-bullying messages, including the outline of a hand putting up a peace sign, a “Bully free zone” sign and one emblazoned “Shred hate.”

Southwest Middle School seventh graders Natasha Laue and Deven Dufour also spoke to the gathered students. Laue shared about her experience being bullied for how she looked, what she wore and for having hearing aids. As she began speaking, she broke down in tears. She reminded people to consider that students may be going through difficult times that other students are unaware of.

“I want to be in a school where people smile and be happy, and they don’t feel scared to come to school,” Laue said.

Dufour took a more interactive approach, asking fellow students why people bullied others. When someone in the crowd volunteered bullies do so to make themselves feel better, he then asked students what else they could do to make themselves feel good.

Play hockey, someone called out. Sleep, another student said.

“Why don’t you do that instead?” Dufour asked.

In addition to visiting Southwest, the Shred Hate program also held an assembly at NRHEG Public Schools Wednesday morning. The visits came ahead of the X Games, to be held Aug. 1 through 4 in Minneapolis. According to Amy Lupo, senior director of marketing and content for ESPN X Games, there are eight schools in Minnesota that participated in Shred Hate.


About Sarah Kocher

Sarah covers education and arts and culture for the Tribune.

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