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Anti-bullying program ‘a game-changer’

Stand Up and Lead kickoff on Staten Island

Adults and students share during one of the workshop exercises. Gary Schoichet

Adults and students share during one of the workshop exercises.

They may one day forget how to determine the area of an isosceles trapezoid or how to say “open the door” in Spanish. But chances are that fifty 6th- and 8th-graders from IS 51 on Staten Island won’t forget what they’ll learn from their participation in the Stand Up and Lead anti-bullying program.

Just ask Erica Porto.

Porto, now 26, was a kid with a bit of a chip on her shoulder when Susan Wagner HS teacher and Chapter Leader George Anthony recruited her to take part in his peer mediation program.

“I didn’t always show the best respect for my teachers and others,” Porto said.

What she learned from the program gave her a new perspective on how to handle certain situations.

“His program changed my life,” she said.

Stand Up and Lead was developed by Anthony and former teacher Lindy Crescitelli. The kids at IS 51 who got together with their parents and educators for the kickoff on Jan. 7 will spend the rest of the school year developing skills in conflict resolution, peer mediation and leadership.

“The goal,” said UFT Staten Island Borough Representative Emil Pietromonaco, “is to give our children the tools they need to protect themselves and others.”

UFT President Michael Mulgrew added that the union, which launched an anti-bullying hotline in November, was proud to sponsor the program.

“You two men have come up with something that’s a game-changer,” Mulgrew said to the founders.

Staten Island District Attorney Dan Donovan, among several elected officials who attended, praised the union for its role in the program.

“The UFT has taken it upon itself to make your children whole people and to stand up to anything that’s affecting them in their lives,” Donovan said.

Besides Donovan, Assemblyman Matthew Titone, State Sen. Diane Savino and Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer also were in attendance.

That alumni like Porto and others keep coming back to help shows the lasting effects of the program.

“You learn that if someone is feeling alone or bullied, they don’t have to deal with it by themselves,” Porto said. “And it lets bullies know that there are consequences to their actions.”

For resources as well as actions you can take to combat bullying in schools, visit

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