The Utah Jazz helped kick off the event, with announcer Craig Bolerjack telling the packed gymnasium, “I want to welcome you to the first anti-bullying coalition get-together. You guys are a part of history! Give yourselves a hand!”
Bolerjack rode into the gymnasium on a motorcycle driven by none other than the Jazz Bear who brought with him his usual antics, shooting silly string into the crowd, performing stunts and getting the crowd to their feet, excited and cheering.
Herriman High School Principal James Birch says he’s never seen an assembly quite like it and believes there’s a reason why it’s different from all the rest, “It’s got to start with the kids. That’s why we’ve got the kids involved.”
He says school ambassadors signed an anti-bullying pledge before coming to the assembly and they are a part of a ‘not in my school’ effort to eradicate bullying.
Herriman High School student Andre James told 2News, “It’s definitely a good thing – this assembly we’re having.”
Fellow student Lucy Biles said, “It’s going to cause change. I know that people do get bullied and I know that they do feel alone. This will help, for us to try to be the cure.”
The name of the assembly was “I Am The C.U.R.E.” C standing for courage, U for unity, R for revolution and E for empowerment.
Inspirational speaker and professional wrestler Chris Hollyfield addressed the students, speaking about how his dwarfism made him a target for bullies in high school. He says he has proven them all wrong, but pleaded with the crowd to think before they speak.
The assembly organized by the Utah Anti-Bully Coalition, whose executive director Don Olsen told 2News this was only the beginning, “To empower the students. To educate the parents and to support the educators.”
Teaming up with the effort to provide resources to students, parents and the community is Holly Kempton, founder of Empower U.
“Mama Bear comes out in me and I feel a responsibility” Kempton told 2News reporter Amy Nay Friday, “I need to do something to help these kids that are acting like they just don’t know what to do.”
Kempton says her own three teenaged daughters were bullied in school and online, “The past year’s been a rough one for us, and one of my daughters turned to cutting.”
She says this is why she searched for answers and is now trying to help other families struggling with similar issues. Empower U has only been formed a few months, but she says she has been overwhelmed by the response, by those wanting to help and by parents and teachers wanting more information.
She says she’s excited about an soon to come statewide tip line where students can turn for help or to report bullying in their schools, “A significant reason why students end up turning to suicide or other unhealthy alternatives is because they don’t feel like there’s somewhere they can go or someone they can trust.”
The tip line was just approved by the state legislature this month, but the funding isn’t set to start until 2015. Founder Pam Hayes of Safe2Help says local sponsors like Papa Murphy’s and others have stepped up to make that possible even sooner, hopefully as early as the start of the next school year.
“They can report either through a call center, or text or through the web. If we can give them a place where they can do that anonymously and have a safe place to turn, that’s our goal,” Hayes told 2News Friday.
In a ‘Dough for Dough’ fundraiser by Papa Murphy’s last month, stores throughout Utah were able to raise over $7,000 for the program. They hope to raise additional funds with upcoming events. Owner Greg Dumas says it’s a worthy effort and one they’re happy to be supporting.
For more information: http://www.safe2help.com/
By Amy Nay