News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Local & Bistate

April 25, 2014

Play on the power of words

Grant aids WV student’s anti-bullying drama

TERRE HAUTE — Some West Vigo Middle School students performed a play with an anti-bullying message for three elementary schools Friday.

They presented a Readers Theater version of “The Juice Box Bully,” a book that seeks to empower kids who are bystanders to stand up for others and speak out against bullying.

Mercedes McCall, a West Vigo High School 10th grader and founder of HEROes in Action — a student-led anti-bullying club — wrote a play based on the book, “The Juice Box Bully.” She also directed the program.

“I think it’s important to get to the kids when they are young,” said McCall, who once bullied others and is now dedicated to spreading an anti-bullying message. She spoke after the presentation at Sugar Creek Consolidated.

Lucus Bendzsa, an eighth-grader who portrays a teacher in the play, said he was bullied when he was younger.

“If we can teach them at a younger age, it’s a whole lot easier than teaching them once they get into middle school,” he said. Delivering the message through a play “is a fun way to teach others about bullying and it makes me feel good down deep inside.”

The middle schoolers went to West Vigo, Consolidated and Fayette Elementary schools, the middle school feeder schools.

As the story unfolds, Pete the Bully (played by Logan Lemon) is a new student at an elementary school, and when others try to befriend him and invite him to participate in activities including soccer, he rejects them and says he doesn’t “play with nerds.”

He refuses to follow “dumb rules,” and at one point he steals students’ soccer ball. When Ruby (Natalie Mauk) — the “victim” — again asks Pete to join them in soccer, he again says he doesn’t play with nerds.

He then deliberately squirted his red juicebox drink all over Ruby’s pristine white shirt, and Ruby had enough.

Furious at his actions and the stain on her shirt, she told him to go back to his former school; she told him he would never have friends at his new school.

That’s when another student, Ralph the bystander (Matthew Hackett), stepped in and told Ruby not to retaliate or be mean. That would make her a bully as well — and everyone at the school had pledged to accept others, model good behavior and forgive others if they made a poor choice.

Pete appreciated Ralph standing up for him, and Pete tells him at his former school, he was teased all the time so he decided to pick on others before they picked on him.

At the end of the play, the middle school students presented Consolidated a copy of the book and a Promise Pledge banner to display in their building.

The middle school students and entire Consolidated student body recited the pledge together:

• I will speak up instead of acting as a bystander.

• I choose not to tease.

• I forgive others if they make a poor choice.

• I model good behavior.

• I accept others for their differences.

• I include others in group situations.

• I will talk to an adult when there is a problem I cannot manage.

• I am powerful in making a difference in my school.

Melanie Beaver, the West Vigo Middle School teacher who oversaw the anti-bullying project, said she hopes it re-assures the younger students that when they transition to middle school, “We are aware of bullying and we speak out against it, too.”

Lemon said it was kind of fun to portray a bully in a play, “but in real life situations, it’s totally not fun.”

In a bullying situation, bystanders have a lot of power, he said, but sometimes they choose not to and then the person getting bullied gets hurt even more.

When a bullying situation occurs, those aware of it should try and stop it and tell the bully it’s not cool, Lemon said. They also should try and cheer up the person who is getting bullied.

“If it gets serious enough, tell an adult or get more help,” Lemon said.

This Readers Theater project was funded through a Wabash Valley Community Foundation grant written by Beaver’s students.

Other students in the play were Taylor Farris, Michele Parker, Emily Turner and Branch Joy.

Sue Loughlin can be reached at 812-231-4235 or sue.loughlin@tribstar.com.

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