Students from the Divine Wisdom Catholic Academy School embarked on their first “Stamp Out Bullying Walkathon” on Friday in an effort to remind themselves and the community about the damaging effects of students picking on each other.
“This walk is meant to stomp out bullying,” eighth-grader Lena Vella said. “It’s meant to teach people how to take action.”
The trek from the school on Northern Boulevard to a ballpark on Cloverdale Boulevard was made by 250 students, Prinicipal Michael Laforgia and several teachers. A new student-run program in the school called the Pope Francis Society hosted the event. Once students made it to the ballpark, a selected group of kids read essays on bullying to their classmates. A group of students from Divine Wisdom’s other campus in Bayside also held a walkathon and the two converged on the ball park. Most of the students wore orange shirts, the color of their cause.
Laforgia became principal of the pre-K-8 Catholic school four years ago, and students, teachers and parents credit him with making the students more aware of bullying.
“These kids don’t walk into the school with a halo,” Laforgia said. “So we have to be very active in preventing bullying. I hope in the quiet of their day they’ll take a moment to reflect on this.”
Lena and three other classmates volunteered to write their own essays for the event. They are all part of the Pope Francis Society, which is made up of about 40 students who meet together once a week with Laforgia and teachers. Most importantly, Lena said, they’re given the task of keeping an eye out for bullying in school, acting as hall-monitors against aggressive behavior.
“I hate that so many people just watch when others are picked on,” said Laura Toscano, Lena’s classmate. “We’re trying to get people to be friendly.”