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Hollis/Brookline students take the lead in anti-bullying efforts

Union Leader Correspondent

April 25. 2014 9:41PM
Hollis-Brookline Middle School Anti-Bullying Committee members, from left, Michael Moscatelli, AshLynn Howey, Khushali Patel, Maddie Norris, Reagan Barry and Kelly Willett shared a message of love and inclusion during a school-wide assembly Friday afternoon. (APRIL GUILMET/Union Leader Correspondent)

HOLLIS — A group of socially conscious Hollis-Brookline Middle School students is taking a stand against bullying behavior. The dozen seventh and eighth graders formed the school’s new Anti Bullying Committee earlier this year and for the past week, the preteens’ good works were showcased during the school-wide Anti-Bullying Week.

Guidance counselor Christy Grieff, who advises the club with paraeducator Anatasyia Esposito and art teacher Lynne Ouellette, said she’s hoping the club will become permanently woven into the school’s fabric. “Right now the plan is to keep things going through the end of the school year,” Grieff added, noting that the students, who she affectionately refers to as the “ABC’s,” planned on hosting daily and weekly activities aimed at making the school a more caring environment.

On Friday, students, parents and staff members filled the seats inside the Hollis-Brookline High School auditorium for a public assembly where audience members were treated to an overview of the past week’s festivities followed by a few special surprises.

Earlier this week, club members gave each of their classmates a plain, white T-shirt reading “I Am,” and encouraged them to fill in the blanks to express their uniqueness and individuality.

Principal Bob Thompson said the students, clad in their customized T-shirts, then formed a human chain outside the school and captured their smiles on video.

The video, played at the assembly’s conclusion, drew a standing ovation from the audience.

“This shows how powerful words can be,” Thompson said, adding that Anti-Bullying Week was almost entirely student-led.

“We’re taking the right steps to make our school a positive place to be,” he added.

Committee member Michael Moscatelli, a seventh grader, said the club conducted a school-wide survey last winter, where 40 percent of his classmates shared that they had, at times, been the victim of bullying.

“Many people see this and they want to help, but they don’t know how to,” he said.

Fellow club member Reagan Barry said the group’s message is simple.

“If you see a bully, stop a bully,” she said.

Inviting the audience to share their thoughts, student Khuski Patel invited everyone who’d “ever witnessed a situation where something seemed funny but might have been hurtful to someone else” to stand.

Nearly everyone in the audience rose to their feet.

Students later watched the music video for “Sunrise” by the band Our Last Night. The video tells the story of a bullied teen who was at first contemplating suicide but ultimately realizes there’s hope for the future.

Our Last Night has been a vocal supporter of The BULLY Project, a nationwide campaign. Inspired by the documentary film “BULLY,’ outreach efforts have reached more than 3.2 million children as of Friday, according to the campaign’s website.

Following the video, band members singer Matt Wentworth and bass player Alex “Woody” Woodrow appeared on the screen with a personal message for the students at Hollis-Brookline Middle School.

Wentworth and Woodrow said in the film that they’d hoped to visit Hollis on Friday, but were unable to attend because they were in the midst of filming a new music video.

Still, Wentworth had some words of advice for the middle school students.

“If you see it (bullying), say something,” he said.

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