Kent State students bring anti-bullying program to Rootstown

By Thomas Gallick | Staff Writer Published:

A team of Kent State University students working on an anti-bullying program for a prestigious public relations contest found a partner in Rootstown Local Schools.

KSU public relations majors Kirsten Bowers, Wezley Garlick, Mary Kate Garvey, Caitlin Potts and Lyndsey Sager were selected to compete in the Public Relations Society of America's Bateman Case Study Competition, which focused on childhood bullying this year. The team started working on an anti-bullying campaign in November, and immediately began looking for a way to interact with young students.

"We needed to find a local partner, and after calling around Rootstown was extremely enthusiastic and willing to work with us," Garvey said. "The administration's been great. Many times we've been in contact with them multiple times a day."

Robert Campbell, principal of Rootstown Middle School, said he invited the Kent State students to his building because they were professional and had a good handle on research about bullying.

"I thought a number of things they shared with the students (had) a good message," Campbell said. "Hopefully at least some of the kids will take away something to use and move forward."

Campbell said he did not believe his school has an above average bullying problem, but added that bullying in some form is in every school.

The Kent State team tried to teach students through a week of activities during student lunchtimes including art contests and puzzles, but the research and the lessons behind the activities were serious. The team focused not only on bullies and their victims, but also the students who witness bullying in a school's classrooms and halls during the program, which wrapped up Tuesday.

"Through our research, we found that bystanders not knowing how to act or how to intervene is a major problem," Garvey said. "We thought by targeting those bystanders and giving them the tools and the resources and the knowledge of what to do in those situations, maybe we could reduce bullying."

Garvey said the college students found it very rewarding when Rootstown middle school children shared stories and asked the older students for advice about bullying.

The team is now evaluating the effectiveness of its campaign and coming up with suggestions for Rootstown Middle School teachers and administrators to implement in the future before filing their final project with the Public Relation Society of America.

Three teams from across the country will be chosen as finalists and will present their campaigns in New York next month.

Garvey said even competing at the local level is an honor for public relations students.

"It's a very selective competition," "It means a lot for all of us that we've been selected. It's not something you can choose to do. You have to be asked by a professor."

Contact this reporter at 330-298-1126 or tgallick@recordpub.com

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