YEADON, March 30, 2012 — There may not be one all-encompassing solution to end violence, but state Sen. Anthony H. Williams told a group of teenagers on Thursday that they can set a lifelong example of peace in the community by taking steps today to prevent bullying among their peers.
“We as a community can’t wave a magic wand and make people like people, but the decisions you make now will lead you on the path from becoming a ninth or tenth grader to a young adult,” he told the freshman class of the William Penn School District during an anti-bullying workshop at Penn Wood High School. “What you do now will define you as an adult, and that’s the difference to achieving greatness.”
Williams co-hosted the workshop along with two-time world cruiserweight boxing champ Steve “USS” Cunningham, comedian Michael Blackson, Yeadon Borough Council President John Holden, Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert K. Reed, William Penn School District board member Robert Wright, and Mahdi El from Young Broadcasters of America/MiND TV.
The anti-bullying workshop is the second in a series of Williams’ ongoing school-based efforts to curb student-on-student violence in the 8th Senatorial District.
Williams shared with the 450 teenagers in attendance that he was bullied as an elementary school student and, in turn, bullied others when he grew older.
“I still live with the memories of what I did to some of my classmates and I am embarrassed by my actions,” Williams told the students. “Whether you were bullied or you are the bully, those memories stay with you. A dirty look, a nasty comment, or a physical altercation is not worth a lifetime of negative memories.
“The teenage years are an important time in a person’s life. You begin to grow up, have many new experiences, and ultimately decide the direction in life that you want to take,” he said. “Bullying is not necessary to define who you are.”
Williams encouraged the students to instead become ambassadors of peace in their school and in the community, which at times has been troubled by violence, spurred by inter-ethnic and territorial conflicts.
“What I hope this workshop does is give parents of the children being picked on the knowledge that they have options, that there are people who are concerned about their issues, that someone actually cares,” said Holden, the borough council president. “We must have a mutual understanding of each other, and mutual respect.”
Seth L. Brunner, assistant principal at Penn Wood High School’s Cypress Street campus, said he has seen bullying manifest itself in school as a student, a teacher, and an administrator.
“Bullying comes in many forms: electronic, written, physical, and verbal. Bullying causes emotional distress, creates a threatening environment and ultimately interferes with the student’s education,” Brunner said. “Students have the responsibility to respect the rights of others. It is our job as educators to be role models and teach students how to act in society. As role models we need to treat students as we expect them to treat each other. As teachers we must educate students on the effects of their actions and demand our students to interact with each other respectfully.”
Ninth-grader Lovely Wesley said the presentation inspired her and she now plans to participate in anti-bullying efforts by “keeping my friends occupied so I can stop them from bullying as well, including cyber bullying.”
“I learned that if you are being bullied, there is always someone to go to, and that fighting is the last resort,” added Julius Robinson, a fellow ninth-grader.
Williams’ office has partnered with MiND TV to help the Penn Wood High School students create anti-bullying public service announcements. Williams’ office and teachers will select the 10 best PSA scripts, which MiND TV will produce in collaboration with the students. The ninth-grade class will select the winning PSA, which will air on MiND TV for a year.
Earlier this week, Williams also attended a Philadelphia screening of the documentary film Bully and participated in the subsequent panel discussion hosted by City Councilman Jim Kenney.
“It’s a powerful film that children and families should watch together because it shows the awful impact of bullying,” Williams said. “I am committed to reaching out to children and adults alike to end this terrible issue, which can lead to violence and even death.”