Flour Bluff students expand education through activism 1 Favorite 


Apr 30 2012


Corpus Christi, TX

 — Many Flour Bluff ISD students have developed an extracurricular activity that takes their education to the streets, to social media and toward a path of change: activism.Much of the students' passion stems from the April 1 suicide of 16-year-old Ted "Teddy" Molina, a former Flour Bluff Independent School District student.Ted's family has attributed his death to bullying. Police continue to investigate.Students have rallied around the cause of ending bullying and are calling for change in the district. They often got their message out by chanting in front of Flour Bluff High School as well as via social media, such as Facebook.Getting involved in a community issue can make students more well-rounded and can teach them key elements they often learn in school, such as civility and responsibility, said Dan Goad, a visiting assistant professor in educational administration and research at A&M-Corpus Christi."It prepares them for life," he said. "They are going to become the leaders of our community."Issues don't have to center on bullying. Topics often can focus on areas such as the environment or politics, experts say.Flour Bluff seniors Sarah Williams, 18, and Ellis Reyes, 17, have been among groups of teens who have spent hours making posters and T-shirts for rallies.Ellis, who said he was bullied from elementary school through his high school freshman year, said he got involved this year because he knew it could help others."It could save someone's life," he said.Other students, such as junior Wesley Bernhardt, 17, organized a rally this month asking for a change in district, high school and school board officials because they didn't agree with the way issues such as bullying and the dress code were being handled."If we don't have our voice out there, nothing's going to change," he said.Wesley also started a petition on www.change.org asking others to support changes in the district. As of Friday, the petition had 307 signatures.Wesley also has been talking with his friends Matthew Gilmore and Henrik Tucker about starting an informal, off-campus student group that would routinely write letters to the school board and attend board meetings to provide student input on issues.Flour Bluff students rallying behind an effort isn't new.Last year, groups of students supported then-senior Bianca "Nikki" Peet, who proposed and fought for establishment of a Gay-Straight Alliance on the high school campus.Williams, a Flour Bluff student who supported the club last year and this year participated in anti-bullying rallies, said this year's efforts seemed more powerful for some students because the cause is broader than a campus-focused issue.She said her involvement with this year's anti-bullying efforts helped her understand she can't be a bystander to bullying and not take action."I actually now want to try and help people," she said.Some young people may feel as though their voice doesn't matter, but through their involvement they tend to realize their perspective is vital, said Michelle Maresh, a communication assistant professor at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi."Some of the time they are the most insightful people," she said, adding students often know more than others may think."They are really agents for change in that way," she added.In terms of issues such as bullying, students often can have a better perspective than administrators because students are living through the behavior every day, said Susan Tellem, a partner with Tellem Grody Public Relations Inc. in Los Angeles."Peer to peer is an excellent way of solving issues," she said.Larger cities, such as Philadelphia, have hosted organizations which offer annual events focused on young people coming together to discuss issues.In recent years many celebrities young people look up to, such as Lady Gaga, have addressed bullying.The Corpus Christi Independent School District plans to have a student-led bullying summit May 7 to provide a chance for at least 200 students to discuss how they want their campuses to address the behavior.Goad said young people don't have to know all the answers, but they do need to ask good questions and investigate issues.Doing that, he said, also can help students as they get older and have careers."If our nation is going to continue and thrive ... they need to know more than just how to get the job."

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