buildOn Students Take Action Against Bullying

Through buildOn’s service learning programs students choose to explore and address the issues that directly impact their lives. This fall buildOn students decided to take action on the issue of bullying.

Bullying digs deeply into a person. Victims have an increased risk for depression, anxiety, sleep difficulties, and poor school adjustment. 1 The latter outcome being a major problem in many buildOn schools that are already struggling with graduation rates of barely 50 percent. One out of four students in the United States will be a victim of bullying 2 and every day 160,000 students stay home from school in order to avoid being bullied.3

This was the case for Natividad (Naty) Martinez  a senior at Marie Curie Metropolitan High School on Chicago’s South Side.  Naty could not see past the labels her peers put on her throughout her grammar school years.  Their  words  made her feel ugly and useless. Their biting remarks snuck into her consciousness until she began to believe them: “One bully told me, ‘you’re useless, why don’t you kill yourself.’ I heard that and thought, ‘I should. I want to do it.’”

Sadly, Naty is not alone.  Bullying victims are seven to nine percent more likely to consider suicide than non-victim peers. 4

“I went into freshman year not knowing who to trust,” Naty says. “I couldn’t open up to people, I didn’t know if they really wanted to be my friend.”

But then, in a class presentation, Naty learned about buildOn and heard stories of the impact service had had on other students. “buildOn gave me a chance to be myself,” she says. “No one judges you for what you wear, your shape or your size, you come together because you agree with helping people.”

She says that bullying has still happened to her in high school, but because of her involvement in buildOn she has a different reaction now: “I was able to ignore them, and to know I have more to offer my community. I am a leader, and a more confident person.”

Naty and some of her buildOn friends at a service project on Chicago

Naty (third from left) and some of her buildOn friends at a service project on Chicago’s South Side.

More than half of bullying situations stop when a peer intervenes on behalf of the student being bullied, and school-based bullying prevention programs decrease bullying by up to 25 percent.5 That’s why this  fall buildOn students are fighting bullying through school-wide campaigns encouraging their peers to be “upstanders not bystanders.”

In Chicago

At John Hancock High School students passed out “no bullying” buttons in the halls, asking those wearing a button to speak up against bullying. They also added positive notes  to school mirrors, reminding students that they are an important and valuable part of their school community.


bullying hancock

Photo: Dayana Ortiz makes sticky note mirror messages for her classmates to feel safe in the bathrooms at John Hancock High School in Chicago. 43% of students in the U.S. avoid using the bathroom at school out of fear of being bullied.6


In New York City and Connecticut

Over 100 students held anti-violence rallies in the Bronx and Bridgeport, CT focused on preventing bullying. Students broke into small groups to discuss the issues surrounding violence. The day ended with an anti-violence rally at a nearby park.


Photo: Students in NYC share reasons why they march against violence and bullying


In Boston

Students from CASH High School designed and painted a “Peace Pathways” Mural in the hallways their school. Students also partnered with a local center for visually impaired youth (Our Space, Our Place) where they explored similarities and differences in their experiences with bullying, opening their eyes to what each group has gone through.

bullying CASH

Photo: CASH students tracing a Peace Pathways mural at their school.


In Detroit

Students at Western International High School worked with a theater teacher to develop monologues on bullying. Throughout October, they turned these monologues into PSAs and performed them at a school assembly on October 30th.

Western bullying skit

Photo: Students from Western International High School in Detroit act out an anti-bullying skit they wrote.



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