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MENDOTA — Mendota AgriKids aren’t going to take it anymore and to prove it, they began an anti-bullying project that has been recognized by the University of Illinois Extension 4-H program.
The local 4-H members started working on “Stop the BULLying” program two years ago. Breann Siebert said club members brainstormed several community service ideas, but then the suicides of two boys in the area last year gave them a new incentive to raise awareness of the problem. The program also gave the kids the confidence they needed to stand up to bullies in their schools.
Hayley Siebert said other students have called her names, and she has witnessed bullying.
“I used to ignore it even though it hurt,” she said. Now she reports it to school staff or finds a way to turn it around so the bully recognizes the behavior.
Makayla Ramer, a third-grade student at Lincoln School, said she has witnessed bullying among her peers as well. She said she also reports any incidents she sees to staff members, and teachers have thanked her for her efforts.
Community balloon launch today The kids are now taking their message public with “Light for the Shadows” today in Veterans Park, downtown Mendota.
Luminaries and balloons are available to mark the memory of a loved one or in honor of those who have survived bullying.
Brendan Ramer, club president, said they hope to have good participation since bullying has affected them all.
“I’ve been bullied myself,” he said. “There’s a lot of bullying that goes on at Northbrook (School).”
Malyka Siebert also attends Northbrook School and knows bullying is a problem.
“I got bullied today and yesterday,” the fifth-grader said. “I hope people will come and help stop the bullying.”
The public is invited to gather at the park at 6 p.m. There will be a balloon launch at 7 p.m. Luminaries will be lit at 8 p.m., and the event will conclude at 9 p.m. Luminaries or balloons are $3 each or two for $5. The AgriKids are charging only enough to cover expenses and maybe raise enough funds to make it an annual event in Mendota.
If nothing else, Hayley Siebert hopes it will help kids to help each other when encountering bullies.
“Once you get tired of (the bullying), the fear goes away,” she said.
Club members started raising awareness over a year ago with custom T-shirts, a float for local parades and in their schools. Club sponsor Carol Ramer said their efforts were recognized by 4-H as one of the top three community service projects in the state for clubs their size.
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