The topic of bullying continues to be a prominent headline in the media. Parents, educators, and organizations across the country are looking for answers on how to bring an end to this growing epidemic. Among those seeking solutions and making a difference is The Indianapolis Urban League. Founded in 1965 as a non-profit, non-partisan, interracial community-based social service/civil rights organization, they want to put a stop to bullying before it begins.
The Indianapolis Urban League saw a need for “Project Full Circle” due to the alarming statics of bullying. According to stompoutbullying.com, 1 in 4 teenagers admitted to being bullied, while 1 in 5 teenagers admitted to bullying someone else. Roughly 282,000 students are physically attacked in secondary schools every month as bullying becomes an epidemic across schools nationwide.
Indianapolis’ middle school children are learning how to deal with these problems early with Project Full Circle, a program developed by The Indianapolis Urban League and funded by Walmart, to address issues that affect them. The goal of the program is to prevent students from making bad decisions that can physically or mentally hurt them or others. The program targets middle school students teaching them techniques that will prevent bullying before these patterns and choices become established behaviors.
According to David Mikelsons, a Project Full Circle staff member, many students were initially reluctant to say if they had been or had bullied someone else. After a few days of working with them and gaining their trust, several students opened up and admitted to both. “Based on my seven years of youth development experience, anti-bullying campaigns across the various school districts (in Indianapolis) are a dire need. Having an anti-bullying or bully-prevention program, or even a safe place to report bullying, is extremely important. The campaign is one part, but it is important to have the teachers and parents on board to make programs like Project Full Circle 100 percent effective,” he says.
One student named Bryant said, “At first, I thought the program was cheesy, but after the first day, I realized they were talking about things that we deal with everyday. I was a bully and I was in trouble a lot. Once I joined the program, I started to bully less and actually started standing up for people that I used to bully. I don’t like it anymore and don’t want to be friends with people that do.” Torriana, Bryant’s mother, has seen a positive change in him. She says her son’s grades have improved and he doesn’t come home angry anymore. She believes programs like Project Full Circle are necessary for all Indianapolis students.
Torriana stated, “A lot of these kids don’t have a good role model in their lives. Bryant is a good son, but once these kids get together, they are like a gang and none of them want to step up and say you’re wrong for doing that. The program gives them support and the fact that there are people willing to support my son and help him, who wouldn’t want that for their child?”
Another student, Misti, will be in ninth grade soon. She also participated in the program, but unlike Bryant, Misti was not a bully. She was on the receiving end. “I was bullied in school. I come from a mixed background, my mother is white and my father is Native American. I was really uncomfortable in the program at first, and didn’t want to talk about the things that were being brought up. Once I learned that many of my friends and even some of my bullies had been through the same things, it made it easier for me to talk about stuff,” Misti says. Misti added that the bullying hasn’t stopped completely, but Project Full Circle has taught her how to overcome the negativity. She says it has also taught her to place trust in her peers in the program.
Misti has become an advocate for other students that are being bullied. “We learned that you don’t know someone’s full story just by looking at them and first impressions do not make you out to be who you are. I realized that some bullies have issues going on that make them feel underpowered, making them lash out. I’ve helped my friends deal with a lot of issues like gossip, feeling ashamed of their bodies and having sex,” she explained. She has struggled with her own issues with weight. Misti’s mother, Joyce, says she has noticed positive changes within her daughter since joining the program, noting her improved grades and upbeat attitude towards school.
The Indianapolis Urban League received a $50,000 grant from Walmart’s State Giving Program in 2011. This grant not only helped fund Project Full Circle, but it also made success stories like Bryant and Misti’s possible. The program ran from October 2011 until June 2012. Mark Russell, Director of Education, Family Services, & Housing, stated, “We are grateful to Walmart for funding this initiative. We are looking for other organizations that would be interested in funding this initiative for the future.”
The Indianapolis Urban League is located at the Sam H. Jones Center, 777 Indiana Avenue in Indianapolis, Indiana. Interested donors may contact Mark Russell at 317-693-7628 or firstname.lastname@example.org.