Cuero students take bullying into their own hands
June 9, 2012 at 1:09 a.m.
SMART CHOICES • Cuero school district's Smart Choices program is part of the national Safe Schools/Healthy Student initiative funded by a federal grant.
• The program provides a variety of services to Cuero students, including initiatives that touch on violence, bullying, drug and alcohol education and life skills training.
• Smart Choices provides mentoring, counseling, a parenting program, mental health services and conducts home visits.
• It's helped decrease student alcohol use, lower truancy and increase the number of appointments students have with professional counselors.
Like most great schemes in middle school, this one was conjured up at the lunch table.
A group of sixth-grade students at Cuero Intermediate School, discussing their own experiences with bullying, wanted to help younger kids avoid some of the perils they had gone through.
They settled on adapting a comic written by classmate Allison Spitzenberger into a play for third-graders called "The Adventures of Bob."
"I wanted to write the play because there's a lot of bullying happening around the world, and I wanted to put a stop to it," Allison, 11, said.
The play is just one of the ways Cuero students are making the school's emphasis on bullying prevention their own personal missions.
Rosanne Resendez-Wagner said that was the goal of the federal grant-funded program, Smart Choices. Wagner works with the program that encourages kids to make healthy choices, including how to treat each other.
The five-year grant expires next year, so Wagner is counting on the students to carry on what they've learned.
"The only way it's going to get heard is through them. They have to lead it and direct it and buy in, then the other students buy into it," she said.
"The Adventures of Bob" featured rotating scenery, a real-life bully situation and a musical number that invited audience participation.
After singing along to the beats highlighted by tambourines, third-grader Loren Washington said she feels sad when she sees someone being picked on.
"You shouldn't do bullying. It hurts somebody's feelings. Don't talk about people because you wouldn't want them to talk about you," Loren said.
That was just the message the middle-schoolers hoped to relay to their younger Gobblers.
"If we can help little kids learn, they can spread it to new people who come and just get the word out when they're young," said Annabel McLeod, 12. Annabel played the bully in a baseball cap in the play. "I have actually been bullied, and it's something that I never want to really experience again."
April Reyes, 12, said she was bullied mostly when she was younger. But now, perhaps thanks to maturity, perhaps because of the school's attack on bullying, things are better for her, April said.
Cindy Goodrich, the sixth-graders' teacher who helped them produce the play, said she's noticed a change in the whole school when it comes to respecting each other more. And as for the kids who are the forefront of the effort, Goodrich said she's proud.
"They do what's right when nobody's looking and they have integrity. These kids are not afraid to separate themselves from the other group," she said.