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STAFF PHOTO/JEFF HORVATH Unity culminated with a symbolic walk around the track as a school.

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STAFF PHOTO/JEFF HORVATH Elk Lake students gather in song to demonstrate their willingness to keep bullying out of school.

In an effort to prevent bullying and encourage inclusiveness among its students, the Elk Lake Elementary School celebrated National Bullying Prevention Month with ‘Unity Day’ on Wednesday, Oct. 21.

“Bullying makes people feel sad and alone,” said elementary guidance counselor Lindsey Williams, who organized the event. “We are trying to encourage behavior that leads to everyone having good self-esteem and that makes every student feel good about themselves.”

This is pivotal when it comes to preventing bullying, because often bullying begets more bullying. This can lead to a vicious cycle that can perpetuate itself for years.

Thankfully, Elk Lake has been very proactive in their fight against bullying, as several initiatives in the elementary school and the high school have been designed to combat this particular issue.

“We have a lot of great things going on here,” said elementary Principal Marc Weisgold, “and everyone, from students to teachers, are really rallying behind the message.”

That message, which is embodied in the theme of Unity Day, is that anyone can be a superhero to someone in need. Elk Lake students have been learning about bullying prevention using the motto: “Stand Up, Speak Out, Be Someone’s Superhero!”

“We like the superhero theme,” Williams continued, “because everyone knows that superheroes are the good guys.”

Unity Day is an event that has been celebrated in the classroom and workplace all across the country. Started by PACER’s National Bullying Prevent Center in 2011, it advocates for kindness, acceptance, and inclusion.

Just about 600 Elk Lake students flocked to the school’s track this past Wednesday, clad in orange, the official color of National Bullying Prevention Month.

The celebration started with short addresses from student “superheroes” Emilyn Buckingham, Carter Gates, Dylan Norcross, and Roy Herman, all of whom were being recognized for nice things they done, such as helping another student pick up his books, or being friendly and polite in class.

Sixth graders Christa Jones and Jessica Ely then led the audience in the singing of an anti-bullying song, the message of which was that “feeling left out is not what we need.”

After the song, the culminating activity, a symbolic walk around the track as a unified school, began. It was obvious that everyone had a lot of fun being outside on such a beautiful day, and especially enjoyed listening to the music that was prepared by DJ and elementary music teacher Ryan Berry.

“When we did this for the first time last year, I had kids saying it was the best day ever,” Williams said. “Everyone has fun, and they understand why its important.”

The Elk Lake PTO also donated orange ribbons to the elementary classes, who tied them in the stairwells to symbolize their commitment to ending bullying.

In the high school orange T-shirts recognizing the “Olweus Bullying Prevention Program,” named in honor of Dan Olweus, the pioneering researcher in the field of bullying prevention.

Elk Lake will also soon unveil a “buddy bench” in the elementary school, where, when a student sits on the buddy bench, they indicate to any other student that they need a friend to talk to. This can be a great way for students to both make friends, and not feel alone if they are having a hard time.

Hopefully, with continued efforts, school districts all over American can help eradicate the problem of bullying, and make every student feel happy, included, and self-confident at school.