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Willmar ALC students promote anti-bullying campaign in their school (with video)

Amanda Alonso, left, and Dayanna Dominguez check out the results of their tie-dying. Tribune photo by Ron Adams2 / 5
Tribune photo by Ron Adams3 / 5
Willmar Area Learning Center art teacher Monica Villars, in the middle, instructs her Service Learning Students on the process of making tie-dyed T-shirts. The orange shirts are part of the school’s anti-bullying campaign. Tribune photo by Ron Adams4 / 5
Natasha Soriano, 15, made an anti-bullying poster on her own, not as part of a class. It’s now posted outside the school’s office. “I want to make the world a better place.” Tribune photo by Ron Adams5 / 5

Their banner says it for the students at Willmar Area Learning Center, “Bullying … Ain’t Nobody Got Time For That!”

Students in the alternative high school’s Service Learning class came up with the slogan and made the banner with white letters on a black background.

Watch: Willmar Area Learning Center students tie-dye anti-bullying shirts

October was National Bullying Prevention Month, and orange was the color chosen to represent it by organizers.

Students at the ALC tie-dyed 70 T-shirts orange in the past two weeks, and they gathered around their banner this week to show their commitment against bullying. The banner is surrounded by orange construction paper handprints, each one signed by a student.

ALC art teacher Monica Villars, who teaches the Service Learning class, said she has students watch videos every fall that help them identify bullying and talks about it in her classes.

She thought the banner and having everyone sign a handprint might help students “take ownership,” of the idea. “I have a strong belief we could eliminate it in our school, because we’re small,” she said. The school has about 80 students, and enrollment fluctuates during the year.

Service Learning students said this week that they see bullying at their school, but they think things are getting better. Most of their teachers will say something if it happens in front of them, they said, and social worker Alison Shattuck helps them deal with it, too.

Dayana Dominguez, 19, said she changed and grew up when she had her baby. It made her notice bullying more, and she just doesn’t have time for it. “People talk about other people by things they hear, not by the things they know.”

“You see it all the time on Facebook,” said Brenda Ibarra, 15. “If it’s not at school, it’s on Facebook.”

Many of the classmates said they think bullying is often related to immaturity.

“A lot of people don’t believe they’re bullying,” said Lizzy Bratton, 17. “But you don’t know everybody’s back story,” she added, and careless words could hurt someone deeply.

Villars said she does hear kids say, “I’m just teasing” without realizing how what they said hurt someone else.

Sam Hirsi, 19, said she didn’t think she had seen it at the ALC, but she did experience it at Willmar Senior High. “Some people get picked on because of their race or religion,” she said.

“I think people get that from their parents,” Lizzy added.

Villars said she hopes the raised awareness of bullying at the school will make a difference for kids.

“It’s not going to hurt,” she said. But she realizes it won’t solve the problem, either. “I do believe we can get a better handle on it,” she said. “Hopefully kids can inform the kids who are new that we don’t do that here.”

Other faculty at the school said the class’s efforts have made a difference in the school. “They all know about it,” said physical education teacher Ross Dahl.

The discussions about bullying may also help draw the students closer, said Nancy DeSchepper, the FACS and health teacher.

The Service Learning students spread the word about bullying and helped teach other students how to tie-dye shirts, Shattuck said. It was good for them, “being leaders and role models,” she said.

Student Natasha Soriano, 15, made an anti-bullying poster on her own, not as part of a class. It’s now posted outside the school’s office.

“I want to make the world a better place,” she said as she looked at the poster.

The poster includes a saying she said she found on the internet: “Rumors are carried by haters, spread by fools and accepted by idiots.”

Linda Vanderwerf

I cover education issues for the West Central Tribune and have worked for the paper since 1995. I have worked in journalism since 1981.

Follow me on Twitter: @lindavanderwerf

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