The Summit - Taking Flight To Change
The Coalition has held a countywide Positive School Climate Summit each October for 14 years. The first event, held for high school students, was conceived after the horrendous attacks at Columbine High School in 1999. Although the event was very successful, organizers and school representatives realized it would be more effective to help students develop social and emotional skills, including leadership and peaceful conflict resolution, and a safe, supportive school climate, earlier. For the past 13 years, each middle school in the county has been invited to bring approximately ten 6th, ten 7th and ten 8th graders, two staff members, two parents and administrators to the Summit. Between 800 and 900 middle school students and approximately 100 school staff members have attended each year.County high school students are invited to participate as well, as group leaders for the middle school attendees. Over 150 students volunteer each year. We find the same peer leaders, many of whom attended the summit as middle school students, coming back year after year. The volunteers find their participation very rewarding, and the middle school students and advisors appreciate their presence. We are always impressed with the dedication, maturity and leadership demonstrated by the volunteers as they mentor their middle school student groups and led them in teambuilding activities. In addition to their duties during the summit, the dedicated high school students also attend the mandatory training the night before. This event is a wonderful opportunity for the older students to develop their leadership abilities and help affect positive change in their communities.
Through engaging presentations and activities from the time students arrive at 9 am until they leave at 2, attendees develop leadership skills and are empowered to be an “upstander”, someone who recognizes when something is wrong and acts to make it right. The event is also a wonderful opportunity to highlight the talents and anti-bullying efforts of county youth, and individuals and school groups have presented each year.
Every attendee receives a reference binder to reinforce what they learned during the event and assist them throughout the year in working independently and together to improve school climate. Students’ binders are filled with useful information, worksheets and resources to prepare them to handle bullying situations in a positive manner, whether they are a victim, a bully, and/or a witness. It also contains information to help them develop positive character traits, foster healthy emotions and relationships and resolve conflicts in a productive manner. The middle school students’ advisors receive the student binder and related lesson plans and references to help them reinforce and build upon the lessons from the Summit and the student binder throughout the school year. (Click here to read the opening page of the binder)
Each school that attends the Summit develops an action plan, activities to implement during the year, to reduce bullying and its negative effects. Coalition members are always available to assist schools in planning and implementing their activities. September through June, the Coalition publishes a Kids2Kids newsletter with additional information for youth and articles sent in by the advisors which provide updates on their students’ follow up work. The newsletters are distributed to each middle school advisor to share with their students and administration. Several schools and school districts post the newsletters on their websites. The newsletters are also available through this link: http://www.centerforprevention.org/coalitionkidstokids.htm.
Approximately 13,000 students have participated in the Summit over the years, and many more have been impacted indirectly through the follow up work done in schools and its impact in the community. The Summit has made a positive and lasting difference, as attendees implement techniques they have learned to help make their environments safer and more inclusive. The Summit’s motivational presentations serve as a catalyst and the resource binders, monthly newsletters and additional support supplied by Coalition staff provide additional knowledge and encouragement, but it’s the concerned and determined members of participating schools who apply the lessons in their communities who take bullying prevention to another level.
This event is made possible through the generous support of local schools, organizations and community members. In particular, we would like to recognize the United Way of Northern New Jersey which, under the direction Mary Emilius, chief professional officer in Sussex County, and its Scholar Athlete Partners, has been an invaluable supporter for 12 years.