The Center for the Prevention of School-Aged Violence hosted its second annual Focus on Prevention Awards June 1, screening the first of a new series of anti-bullying films and awarding local leaders for helping to combat bullying.
The event, which was held in Mitchell Auditorium in the Edmund D. Bossone Research Center, was made possible by the efforts of Kenyetta Overton, events coordinator and assistant in project planning for CPOSAV at Drexel’s Goodwin College of Professional Studies.
Approximately 75 teachers and members of the community, as well as Drexel students and staff, were shown an anti-bullying public service announcement entitled “Combating Conflict with Character.” The film is one in a five-part series called “Dealing With Bullying Directly.”
Members of production company Real Arts Media casted, directed, wrote and edited the project, bringing in local school-aged actors to star in the production.
Also featured in the 30-minute video was event emcee Chuck Williams, assistant clinical professor at Drexel’s School of Education and CPOSAV director. In the film, Williams analyzed skits performed by the actors that illustrated acts of direct and indirect bullying. Filmed in a school setting, the videos were meant to demonstrate how individuals could stand up to this type of mistreatment.
The 13 young actors and their parents attended the event and were recognized as leaders by Margie Strosser, Real Arts Media representative.
“This experience of creating characters that speak to the nation was hopefully useful to you as performers,” Strosser said. “The characters that you created will speak to hundreds and thousands of teens across the country. You’ve effectively become role models, and I want to congratulate you.”
The project began when Williams was contacted by a local theater who asked him to help develop an anti-bullying video series.
“I, of course jumped at such an opportunity, and stated rather emphatically ‘yes.’ Little did I know what a huge undertaking it would be,” Williams said before the video screening. “What you will see tonight is the culmination of a creative process that ultimately … preaches a message of positive peer engagement, respect and the power of information.”
The film juxtaposed interviews with students from Constitution High School who were victims of bullying with the aforementioned bullying demonstration skits. It also included analyses by Williams and Maggie Pruett–Saratan, an adolescent mental health counselor.
After viewing the screening, attendees had the chance to ask questions and offer advice about the film. Local community member Nancy Ngrujen aired her complaints about what she saw.
“It strikes me as odd that these scenes were filmed on a stage, with no one around. When bullying takes place in schools, it is in hallways with lots of witnesses,” Ngrujen said.
Aiming to spark a conversation, she also highlighted what she felt the root of school bullying is.
“We need to talk about the deep conflicts that happen between students, and make the time to talk about them. It’s not just ‘why did you hit him; it’s ‘where did you learn the ‘n’ word?’. Are we ready to have these conversations?” she asked.
Other attendees, namely teachers, praised the actors for what they called an “accurate portrayal” of scenarios that they see in their schools.
The event also included a panel discussion comprised of the Real Arts Media representatives, Constitution High teacher Matthew Malone and Kevin Orangers, vice president of programs at the National Liberty Museum. Each panelist offered his or her praise of the film.
Malone encouraged that CPOSAV seek to screen the film not just to students in high school auditoriums, but to student organization leaders who could demonstrate the concepts of the film to their peers.
Rounding out the event was CPOSAV’s awards ceremony and reception, in which local leaders in the fight against bullying were recognized.
A notable awardee was Robert Jarvis, Ph.D., director of K-12 Outreach for the Penn Center for Educational Leadership in the Graduate School of Education at the University of Pennsylvania.
Also recognized were the Asian Students Association of Philadelphia; poet and motivational speaker Greg Corbin; and Anne Marie Ambrose, commissioner of the Philadelphia Department of Human Services.
Of the awardees, Williams said, “These are people who worked very hard to ensure that you young people can grow up to be productive, happy adults.”
Williams provided a closing message for the youth in attendance at the event.
“I hope that the young people here tonight will come away from this with a sense of empowerment, realizing that you can stop bullying and end school aged violence,” he said.
Williams also said that the Center for the Prevention of School-Aged Violence operates with the mission of creating awareness about the need for youth-centered efforts against bullying and violence in youth environments, such as at school. CPOSAV seeks to accomplish this through research, policy advocacy and what they call evidence-based practices.