It all started with an idea—South Junior High 8th grade reading teacher Yoli Gonzalez’s class had just finished a civil rights unit where they read S.E. Hinton’s acclaimed novel “The Outsiders.”
Many of the students had prior experiences with bullying, both in and out of school. The students wanted to do something that would help change things, not just in their school, but in their world. This was the beginning of what is now known as the Paw Out Bullying Club (South’s mascot is the bobcat), started by the students. The club doesn’t just teach about bullying, or why bullying is bad.
Underlying the anti-bullying message, is a deeper lesson about common respect for all people, and how bullying exists not only in schools, but everywhere in life. The club started with six students, but has grown to sixty.
On Friday Oct. 5, Boise State Assistant Director of Student Involvement and Leadership Damoni Wright had the students come into the Student Union for a anti-bullying seminar.
Jasmine Slater, a senior business major, was just one of the many Boise State students who volunteered to attend the event.
“I wanted to help them in their campaign, kind of facilitate things I wish I would have gotten into when I was younger,” Slater said.
Slater was very passionate about helping out, especially since these students voted to have the club made.
“These kids are doing it on their own, we had those programs for us. They’re motivated, and they want to do something, and they want to help people,” Slater said.
Yoli Gonzalez was amazed when the votes came through for creating the club.
“It’s so acceptable in our media, it’s amazing the kids voted against (bullying),” Gonzalez said.
So far the club has been very busy, the students are writing and starring in a play that helps define bullying, and to spread awareness. They performed the play at two elementary schools to rave reviews.
Calls started coming from schools in the valley wanting the Paw Out Bullying Club to perform for them.
Damoni Wright, whose children attend South, met Gonzalez at a parent teacher conference.
When she discovered Wright’s position at Boise State, she sent him a copy of the play for him to review.
“Instead of just me reviewing it, I let my entire applied leadership class review it and send them suggestions back,” Wright said. “So that’s how I got involved with it. Then this semester, I heard they were trying to do more, I mean, it went without saying. I had to be involved.”
Friday’s seminar aimed to teach the students leadership skills they need, what bullying is and what they can do, not just in school but in life. The students will continue to perform the play at schools in Boise, as the lessons they teach do not just apply to students, but potentially to anyone striving to treat all people with common decency and fundamental respect.