Spring Break 2012 - Atlanta
Howard University > Alternative Spring Break 2013

ASB Atlanta Tackles New Issue and Discovers Deep Problems

By Shanice Davis
Howard University News Service

ASB Atlanta volunteers talk to the children at the Salvation Army Boys and Girls Club about bullying and preparing for  their future.

ATLANTA (March 15, 2013) – Howard University’s Alternative Spring Break (ASB) has tackled issues ranging from illiteracy to gun violence to poverty to homelessness to HIV in cities across America. 

Atlanta site coordinator Jasmine Gordon decided to move away from those subjects this year. 

"When I became site coordinator of Atlanta, I was tasked with finding an issue to tackle,” said Gordon, a junior majoring in chemical engineering.  “I did a lot of research on the city of Atlanta, and I noticed that bullying kept coming up.

 "When you have 11 year olds committing suicide and people having to sue because of bullying, that's definitely out of the norm."

So, ASB Atlanta participants decided to tackle bullying at Hope-Hill Elementary School in Atlanta and the Salvation Army Boys and Girls Club in Dekalb County.

 At Hope-Hill participants were paired up with various students to tutor throughout the school day. Mentors would take a break from tutoring to host "safe circles," in which students would be brought together with their classmates to talk about the lack of respect among students and solutions to bullying.

"It wasn't something we had to introduce to them," said Ayanna Wilcox, a sophomore majoring in applied communications. "They knew head on what [it] was."
What students were less aware of was how bullying affected their peers. To combat students' negative perceptions of each other, one "safe circle" played the "Compliment Game."
"With the Compliment Game, each student went around [the circle] and gave a compliment about each other, and the reason it was so monumental was because not one student did it unwillingly,” said Demetrius Chavis, a freshman majoring in political science with a minor in vocal performance.  “The progress was that each student really got deeper than what was external."

Another set of mentors encouraged their mentees to write anonymous letters to their teachers expressing their thoughts on bullying.

"We got a lot of letters that were very heartbreaking," said Mercedes Jones, a freshman, from Dallas majoring in finance. "[A mentee] wrote a letter saying that a kid told him that his mom doesn't love him.  That he's stupid, he's worthless.  He's nothing in this world, and he needs to just go away.

“That brought everyone to tears because no one should have to experience that."

While talking to their mentees and reading their anonymous letters, Howard students learned some students lack hope in their teachers.

"I don't think they do enough,” fifth grader Trevion Snipes, said. “They may write [students] up, but they need to have three write-ups to get suspended from school. The first time should be a warning. The second time they should be suspended."

Every night, ASB participants talked about experiences the elementary school students and possible solutions to the issues facing them in school.

"Our goal is to have the children feel comfortable opening up to someone other than themselves,” Gordon said.  “We want these children to get the courage to speak up about these issues. We want them to become equipped with what it takes to stand up for their own futures, because a lot of times these administrators won't.

 On Friday, before their final good bye, ASB Atlanta participants hosted a rally at the school for third, fourth and fifth grade students. Teachers and administrators were also in attendance.

During the rally, participants held an interactive presentation, in which Hope-Hill students showcased their talents through poetry and music and spoke about their experiences with the Hope Hill students.   They also performed skits on how to be confident against bullies.

Howard University sophomore Briana Cross tutors her fifth-grade student Trevion Snipes.
"Everyone got emotional," team leader Kailyn Stuckey said. "The kids changed my life in ways I never thought they would."
Photos by Shanice Davis
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