Just forty minutes southwest of Fresno is San Joaquin Elementary School, located in a small, rural town of just a little over 4,000 residents. Regardless of its smaller population, the school district has faced the issue of bullying, which remains problematic for many school districts across the nation.
Students in the college’s Honors Program in Collaborative Leadership wanted to address this issue head on as part of their community assessment and project. They partnered with the Sustainable Parks and Recreation Community Initiative (SPARCI), a program that already provides recreational activities to youth in the rural town.
Through their assessment, students in the group discovered that by teaming up with SPARCI and with the support of the school principal, they could implement a kindness week focused on bringing awareness of the bullying problem in the school, boosting self-esteem among students, and educating students on ways to identify and cope with bullying.
The honors group coordinated their kindness week April 3rd to 5th, during the after-school program, with students ranging from 4th to 8th grade.
“Each day had a different theme,” said Shannon Muzio, a member of the Honors Program and a Communicative Sciences and Deaf Studies major. “The first day was general education on bullying with one of our group members teaching the four types of bullying: social, physical, verbal, and cyber. At the end of the day, the students were given a swag box with pencils, anti-bullying stickers and a ruler. We took polaroids of each of the students holding a sign that said, ‘Be a Buddy, Not a Bully’. They were also given homework that would give the students an opportunity to discuss what they learned with their families.”
Through the homework assignment, the honors students strived to bring awareness to the families, but also keep the young students accountable for what they learned.
The theme for the second day was stress/emotion management, with the young students acting out skits of different bullying situations. The audience had to identify the type of bullying, the correct response and what the bystanders should do. The final day reviewed these bystander roles.
A diverse group of students ranging from different majors including nursing, exercise science, audiology, speech-language pathology, and social work participated in carrying out the kindness week at San Joaquin Elementary. The group was able to collaborate in different ways bringing each student’s individual strengths to the project.
“The group allowed us all to bring different resources and ideas to the table,” Muzio said. “We brought a lot of our passions with us to make it work. Our social work major brought her knowledge of mental health and family dynamics to the table. Our nursing students brought their passion for overall health and wellness of people. We were sure to design a project that we could all get behind and support and would be encouraging to all of us.”
Through their project, the Honors Program students ultimately wanted the students of San Joaquin Elementary to increase their awareness on bullying rates at their school, learn healthy and safe responses to emotional and mental stress, and also improve their self-esteem and encourage positive attitudes.
After the kindness week ended, they conducted a survey and found that 100 percent of the San Joaquin Elementary students believed that bullying was an issue at their school.
“The survey concluded that 56 percent knew the four types of bullying, 70.7 percent knew how to deal with a bully, and 100 percent were willing to help out someone being bullied,” Muzio said.
For Muzio and her group members, the opportunity to be in the Honors Program allowed them to conduct research and direct a research-focused project.
“We went in with one idea and came out with a completely different project,” Muzio said. “Being in this program has completely transformed my perspective on group projects. I truly enjoyed each and every one of my group-mates and am so glad that we all have such different personalities and perspectives. Rather than allowing that to frustrate and divide us, we embraced it and learned how to work together to serve others, which is our job as future professionals in the Health and Human Services field.”
Honors students conducting the kindness week project include: Shannon Muzio (Communicative Sciences and Deaf Studies), Kindra Armstrong (Nursing), Jennifer Delcid (Pre-Nursing), Shelby Flores (Nursing), Danali McCain (Social Work), Marian Joy Pagaduan (Communicative Sciences and Deaf Studies) and Edgar Zarate (Kinesiology).
Learn more about the Honors Program in Collaborative Leadership on our website.
-Written by Rebeca Flores, CHHS communication student assistant