Prairieville wins Stop the Silence

Advocate staff photo by CATHERINE THRELKELD -- Altonnesha Darby, 14, left, and Ronia Singleton, 12, of Gonzales Middle School, present their anti-bullying project April 25 at the Stop the Silence Project Showcase at the Gonzales Civic Center. Eight middle schools competed for prizes in a project sponsored by Leadership Ascension.
Advocate staff photo by CATHERINE THRELKELD -- Altonnesha Darby, 14, left, and Ronia Singleton, 12, of Gonzales Middle School, present their anti-bullying project April 25 at the Stop the Silence Project Showcase at the Gonzales Civic Center. Eight middle schools competed for prizes in a project sponsored by Leadership Ascension.

An animated cartoon, colorful brochure and catchy slogan helped Prairieville Middle School win the Stop the Silence anti-bullying campaign contest sponsored by Leadership Ascension.

Eight members of the school’s Innovation Club brainstormed to come up with the elements of a campaign designed to stop bullying.

Prairieville Middle was one of eight parish public middle schools that competed for prizes in the contest.

The schools presented their campaigns April 25 during a program at the Gonzales Civic Center.

Schools were given criteria and $300 in January to come up with an anti-bullying campaign, complete with billboards, commercials and brochures, said Tristi Charpentier, a member of the Leadership Ascension team sponsoring the event.

Charpentier said the leadership team wanted students to come away from the exercise with a “deeper understanding of what happens when children are bullied.”

While schools are mandated to discuss bullying with their students, Charpentier said, the Ascension Parish school system did not have a formal program for students.

The Leadership team, part of a larger Ascension Chamber of Commerce leadership program tasked with creating a community service project, met with Ascension Parish School Board staff to come up with the criteria for the campaigns, she said.

Gwen Price, director of middle schools, said the leadership team’s program helped students learn valuable facts and information about bullying at their schools.

Price, who had talked to teachers earlier in the day about bullying, said she encouraged teachers to listen to their students when it comes to bullying.

“It’s all about being a good listener,” she said.

She also asked the teachers to know “the culture of their schools.”

Prairieville Middle School art teacher Cindy Dodson and technology teacher Tara Landry said they listened to their creative students as they came up with the ideas that made it into their campaign.

Student Lauren Tedder came up with the group’s slogan “Don’t be an Anchor, Be a Lifesaver — Don’t Let Bullying Weigh You Down.”

Ariana Robinson and Jannie Nguyen created original characters for the school’s animated commercial. Those characters also were used in the group’s brochure, poster, billboard and Web page designs.

The teachers said the campaign was a team effort.

Lily Nguyen and Guy Harry served as graphic designers. Christina Robertson worked on the brochure design and wrote some original text for the brochure and Keyona Owens gathered information for the brochure and website and helped with budgeting.

Blatiney Anderson helped with budgeting and the brochure design.

Keyona, 13, said she learned that bullying “is not a cool thing to do.”

The lessons learned by the students were outlined in a brochure.

“Bullying is the result of uncontrolled anger that not only hurts others, but the bully as well,” the Prairieville Middle brochure states. “It can be so damaging that the victim feels they have no voice, so they need your help. No matter how small or how great the bullying is, every victim needs a way out. We could be their gateway to a better life, so stand up against bullying wit us, Ascension parish. Stand up to make a change.”

The brochure suggested what students who are bullied can do and shared the warning sign of bullying.

Leadership Ascension team member Darci Brazzel said she hopes schools will use the tools created in the campaign as part of a parish anti-bullying program.

St. Amant Middle School won second place and third place went to Central Middle.

Joining Charpentier and Brazzel on the Leadership Ascension team were Linda Schexnaydre, Wesley Robert, George Galvin, Ronald Harris, Laura Gremillion, Kim Corley and Jeremy McCrory.

Leadership class members sold raffle tickets to fund the project, and money not used by the schools was donated to the school system for an anti bullying campaign, Charpentier said.