The marchers n mostly students from Cheyenne’s four high schools n walked behind Cheyenne Central High’s drum line and its ROTC color guard on the warm spring morning.
They walked from the Historic Depot to the State Capitol where the group gathered for a brief program. In addition to students, the walkers also included teachers, counselors, school principals, parents and city of Cheyenne officials.
The group kept up a brisk walking pace set by the drum line on Saturday. Marchers wore black T-shirts with the symbol of the Safe School Ambassadors program printed near a corner.
The ambassador program trains student leaders at Laramie County School District 1 high schools to reduce bullying and help students.
Central High organized this year’s march, which is the third such anti-bullying gathering in Cheyenne. Next year, South High will coordinate the event.
Central High’s Toni Hatfield works with at-risk students and is a trainer for the ambassadors program. She said the students handled most all of the program this year.
Central High students Andrew Dillon and Shannon Burke led the program, cheered on by the crowd.
“Wyoming is doing a great job about awareness of bullying. Wyoming students are very much involved,” Cheyenne Mayor Rick Kaysen told the crowd. “But you in Cheyenne are leading the way in the state,” he said.
Tracey Kinney, assistant superintendent of instruction for Laramie County School District 1, thanked students “for making such a huge difference in the reported incidences of bullying.”
Within a couple of years of starting programs to reduce bullying, reported bullying cases dropped 48.2 percent, she said.
“I commend your efforts. Keep up this excellent work,” she told the crowd.
Cheyenne Police Chief Brian Kozak termed the reduction as amazing.
“It couldn’t have been done without you guys and the peer pressure you’re putting on other students that this (bullying) ain’t cool,” he said.
About 160,000 students in the United States miss school every day for fear of being bullied, said Carrisa Pickard, a junior at Cheyenne’s South High.
“Safe School Ambassadors are courageous, committed and skilled students who are trained to prevent and stop exclusion, teasing, bullying and other forms of violence,” Pickard said. She was asked to join five years ago.
“I have been a bully. I have been bullied, and I have stood by and watched others get bullied,” she said.
“Look around you. Every single person standing here today has what it takes to make a bully think twice,” she said.
“We need to stand strong and be the change we want to see. I stand in front of you today proud to support this cause,” Pickard said.
Austin Williamson, a senior at Central High, said Safe School Ambassadors has made a huge positive impact at his school. He is part of the program this year.
“People all around school seem like they are paying closer attention to thoughts and feelings of others,” he said.
“I honestly believe that Safe School Ambassadors is an essential part of the school community and that every school should implement it,” Williamson said.