The gym of New Rochelle’s Albert Leonard Middle School (ALMS) was awash this Monday in waves of blue as a chorus of over 1200 students, bursting the room’s acoustics and their teachers’ hearing, stomped and clapped in calls to end bullying.
The program’s agenda included a handful of high-profile names: sponsorship and support from STOMP Out Bullying, Armour, and an appearance from actor and television host Mario Lopez, chosen for his involvement with the Boys & Girls Clubs.
The pep rally was timed with Blue Shirt Day—the World Day of Bullying Prevention—and marked the start of October, which serves for its sixth year as National Bullying Prevention Awareness Month—an initiative begun by the organization STOMP Out Bullying. ALMS won the attention of the campaign, and the honor of hosting the event, for the school’s own anti-bullying efforts.
Photo by Katy Turner
Selected students were given time on stage to ask questions to Lopez: “How do you think our generation can put a stop to bullying” and, “Why are you so passionate about this cause?”
Lopez said the difficult part of putting an end to bullying was not finding the right course of action, but finding the will to act upon it. “If you see something, you need to say something… and I know that sounds really difficult, and you might be a little nervous or apprehensive to do that, and that’s okay,” he said. “I’m so passionate about this because I’ve experienced it myself—I have little kids myself, so it’s very important to me.”
Other speakers included ALMS Principal John Barnes, Armour’s Director of Marketing Jennifer Zmrhal, and STOMP Out Bullying’s Founder and CEO Ross Ellis. Barnes called the rally a “call to action” to create a world whose students are “empathetic, tolerant, and accepting” among today’s alarming rates of bullying. According to the speakers, one in four young people today experience bullying.
Looking forward, ALMS has multiple education plans through which to increase the crusade against bullying and cyberbullying.
“For our students to see the attention and recognition from the outside really helps to support the message about bullying needing to be stopped,” said Principal Barnes. He expressed that this is “a lifelong mission,” that it requires more than a small shift; his call is for a movement “to change the culture, to go from a culture of bystanders to upstanding.”