University Students and High Schoolers Battle the Chain of Bullying Through the Arts

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By Maria Kim, Bloc Reporter

“Bullying is a curse that has been passed down from generation to generation,” said Samaiya Johnson.

“We are the generation that kills without objects,” said Josselyn Morales.

“When will it end?” the two Northwestern High School ninth-graders asked the audience.

Catching Stones: The Battle Against Bullying,” a showcase featuring NHS ninth-graders in collaboration with University of Maryland student mentors, addressed this question and more May 1  in Ulrich Recital Hall in Tawes Hall.

Eleven performances ranged from comedic renditions of “Family Feud” to powerful spoken word pieces about sensitive topics such as suicide and sexual abuse.

Others showcased the causes and repercussions of bullying through dance pieces, homemade videos, poetry, and both humorous and serious skits.

The production featured performances by the “NHS Buddies,” the ninth-grade high school students, along with their “College Buddies,” a group of university students enrolled in Writing for Change.

College Buddy and senior criminal justice major Chris Martinez said he enjoyed the unique collection of stories the performance presented.

“It was great to see a bunch of different stories,” Martinez said. “The most touching ones were when people shared their personal stories.”

So touching that 17-year-old “A.C.,” who chose to use a pseudonym because of the sensitivity of her piece, caused some audience members to shed tears during her performance.

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Fredy Mejia Salinas, an NHS ninth-grader, performs “And Together We’ll Rise,” showing how friendship and love can heal emotional wounds.

A.C., originally from Brazil, wrote and read a poem about suffering thoughts of suicide from enduring verbal and physical abuse.

“I don’t like hugging men because, when I was little, I was raped for four years,” A.C. read from her spoken word piece.

She described the shame she faced in school when a friend publically revealed her experience.

Christine Nwosu, a senior family science major, said A.C.’s performance moved her.

“I felt as though she was robbed of her childhood,” Nwosu said. “She was raped young and carried that guilt with her.”

“The part that got me was when she was talking about her own experience,” senior anthropology major Katherine Chen said. “It’s not something someone that young should go through.”

But A.C.’s voice strengthened as she described how she survived the years of bullying.

“I learned that you have to love yourself and believe in who you are,” A.C. said. “I learned that we are all beautiful, and together we can stop bullying. I am an overcomer.”

Nwosu said she appreciated A.C’s performance because she confronted a devastating event in her life. “She’s brave for sharing that. She was able to take it in her own hands and tell people,” she said.

A.C. said she was nervous at first, especially because of the large crowd, but was focused on her goal: sharing her story.

Ninth-graders Khalil Ford and Francisco Paz presented a parody video of ESPN’s coverage of the Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin case. The parody, named “No Friends League (NFL),” emphasized issues of self-esteem and how egotism can affect a team.

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Pamela Majano-Garay, another NHS ninth-grader, performs in “Guardian Angel,” an interpretive dance showing the struggles of depression and suicide.

The event not only allowed students to share their personal accounts of bullying but brought families closer.

For 50-year-old James Ford of Hyattsville, Md., the Writing for Change course helped his son, Khalil, develop a better relationship with his sister.

Although Ford does not allow bullying in his home, he said he has no control of what happens outside the house. Bullying became worse than when he was young, Ford said.

“If you’re not wearing the same shoes that bullies are wearing or the same clothes bullies are wearing, you’re in trouble,” Ford said.

The course connects university students with Northwestern High School freshmen to help them develop a voice for social change through written pieces.
The Office of Diversity & Inclusion sponsored the performance as part of its Rise Above campaign, a movement asking students to “rise above” racism, sexism, homophobia and other forms of bias.

Students prepared for the performance beginning in February, where the College Buddies visited the classroom once a week on Wednesdays.

The high school students chose bullying for this year’s project theme where, last year, the students chose drugs.

This year’s theme had a larger impact on the students because it was more relevant, said Carly Finkelstein, an NHS English teacher.

“Kids generally know not to do drugs, but bullying is something pretty much every high school student experiences,” Finkelstein said.

The student projects were impressive because, at first, some of them didn’t think bullying actually happened, said Heather Lindenman, assistant director of the Academic Writing Program and teacher of the course.

“We sent them out to do research on what it is and why it happens,” Lindenman said. “It made everyone ask themselves on how it affected ‘me.’”

The students chose the angle that was most important to them, which was why every performance turned out so well, she said.

Casey McGinnis, a senior English major and previous College Buddy, said the performance ran smoothly.

“The MCs pumped up the audience,” McGinnis said, “and made the crowd excited about the performance.”

Alex Robbins, a sophomore community health major, said the performance was interesting because it discussed the issue of bullying through different modes.

“The high schoolers used animated and live action videos, dances, music and skits,” Robbins said. “I really enjoyed it.”

Seeing the final performance come together, was rewarding said Schirin Merat, a junior American studies major and College Buddy.

“Sometimes things didn’t turn out as planned,” Merat said, “or [the] high school buddies weren’t prepared in the way we hoped for. But I underestimated them and the final performance showed me how much they were capable of.”

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