Students at Fort Clarke Middle School learned about the values of positivity and love at a school-wide assembly Thursday.
Members of Be More Heroic, a non-profit anti-bullying campaign, spent an hour and a half telling stories, singing songs, and conveying positive messages to Fort Clarke students.
Young actors and singers travel to schools throughout the country and use music to send messages about love and acceptance.
Co-founder Sierra Dowd said Be More Heroic differs from other anti-bullying campaigns because they follow up their presentations with organized clubs and community service projects.
“We build a team program that essentially works as a club at every school that we go to. They participate in three service projects throughout the course of a year, and it really creates a safe space within their community,” she said.
Jeffrey Weisberg, director of programs and outreach at the River Phoenix Center for Peace Building, said this is the second year the center has brought Be More Heroic to Gainesville. Fort Clarke is one of five schools the group visited this week. Weisberg said middle school kids are an important group to reach out to when it comes to bullying.
“We think that if more young people feel the support and the camaraderie and that there’s people taking a stand for them, that there would be less chance of people taking their lives in that respect,” Weisberg said.
Fort Clarke eighth grader Matthew Martin said it’s not unusual to see bullying on social media sites.
“Sometimes, when I might be just scrolling through my feed, I might look through the comments, just to see what people said, and I might see someone getting ganged up on or talked about,” says Martin
Guidance Counselor Tracy Scott said Fort Clarke is intolerant of bullying. Still, she has had to deal with many bullying cases.
“We have a little bit of everything. Kids being bullied, or kids bullying other students. And this program will help as a school-wide initiative to make all the students aware that we are a no-tolerance bullying school,” says Scott.
Dani Shay, Be More Heroic co-founder, said she was inspired to start the organization because of her own experiences being bullied as a teenager. She channeled her frustrations into music, and encourages kids to channel their own emotions into art.
“We just remember how painful being a teenager sometimes is. We want to provide something that’s heartfelt, something that reminds them that it’s not all about how you look and that there are adults out there that want to connect with you,” Shay said.