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Bessemer students prepare for day of unity

 

October 22, 2019

Submitted photo

Jewel Jett, left, and McKenzie Switzer sit at a table Monday holding items they helped make for Unity Day. The peer-to-peer students in Jamie Stiffarm's class are asking other students and the community to join in solidarity by wearing orange on Wednesday to show support for this world-wide anti-bullying campaign.

By KIM E. STROM

kstrom@yourdailyglobe.com

Bessemer - Wednesday, Oct. 23, is Unity Day. Students at Bessemer Area Schools are recognizing the day by wearing orange in support for anti-bullying. According to Pacer's National Bullying Prevention Center, "orange provides a powerful, visually compelling expression of solidarity."

Jamie Stiffarm, special needs teacher and peer to peer teacher, said it's about being sensitive and mindful of others and how they learn. Some (students) are much more accepted than others, she said. "So we take this opportunity to work with others on kindness and acceptance in a positive way," she said.

Many of the kids at the high school level have chosen to sign a pledge that says, "I will speak up with kindness, reach out with acceptance and be a friend through inclusion," said Stiffarm.

"In a world where you can be anything, be kind," is another message the peer students are promoting.

On Wednesday, the elementary students will be receiving coloring pages on anti-bullying that the peers have put together. They will also watch age-appropriate video clips on the subject, also chosen by their peers, said Stiffarm.

The peer-to-peer program was established in Michigan originally to help children with disabilities, said Stiffarm. It worked so well that it began to be applied to help children with trauma in their background too.

"It is proven that kids listen to their peers, and when kids are happier, they have success," Stiffarm said of the peer-to-peer program. "Bessemer is really good about being kind to each other," she said. "We have a discussion about being respectful and responsible with each other. When you are around your friends and are aware of someone having conflict, encourage them to stop and think about how their words will affect others around them," Stiffarm said.

"Or we tell them to even just say 'stop,' walk away and come back later when everyone is calmer. We understand not everyone will agree or see eye to eye, but we can still be civilized and appropriate with each other," she said.

The peers have even created an address with a hashtag where they take a picture of themselves wearing orange and then state what they did for a random act of kindness," she said. "It's using phones in a positive way to send out that message."

"These are pretty nice kids here, and we really work on being kind," said Stiffarm. "It's really important here."

 
 

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