“Be a buddy, not a bully.” That’s the message delivered by 5th-graders from PS 95 in Gravesend, Brooklyn, with their “Man in the Mirror” video, the runner-up in a contest at the UFT’s fifth annual BRAVE (Building Respect, Acceptance and Voice through Education) Anti-Bullying Conference on May 19 at union headquarters. “We’re talking to kids about being an upstander” when faced with bullying, said PS 95 guidance counselor Kimberly Dowd, who directed the students in interpreting the Michael Jackson song, which says, “If you wanna make the world a better place, take a look at yourself, and then make a change.” The winning video was created by students from MS 318 in Far Rockaway, Queens, who were writing a play about an immigrant student to teach classmates to be respectful and responsible. Their video grew out of the play. Special education teacher Aimee Vilcins, the MS 318 chapter leader, said part of the school’s philosophy is that “everybody and their uniqueness is welcomed and celebrated.” BRAVE Director Anthony Harmon, who welcomed participants to the event, said “bullying continues to be a big issue in our public schools.” Addressing the issue is important, said Noreen Lingham, a school nurse at District 75’s PS 277 at PS 404 in Queens, because “kids stop going to school because of bullying. They’re in my office all the time.” Mirna Martinez, a former school aide, said she has a son who was bullied. She attended the conference to get ideas about how to combat bullying. A skit by Stand Up & Lead presented a good strategy, urging students to find ways to relate to each other so commonality can trump bullying. The conference included displays from the Hetrick-Martin Institute, which helps LGBTQ youth; the Joe Torre Safe at Home Foundation for domestic violence victims; and Facing History and Ourselves, which promotes a more humane and involved citizenry.
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‘Make the world a better place’