Posted by Justin Rice January 25, 2012 03:30 PM
Justin A. Rice for Boston.comGovernor Deval Patrick gathered with about 600 students at the Collins Middle School in Salem this afternoon for "No Name Calling Day."
The event, event which was designed to raise awareness about bullying in schools, was one of several across the state where students wore black and signed banners pledging to "Black Out Bullying."
"No Name Calling Day" was created as part of the anti-bullying legislation Patrick signed in May 2010.
"We have to be about bringing our best values every day and not just about our best values on days of commemoration and then put it back on the shelf tomorrow," Patrick told the students.
Brad Maloon, the school's conflict intervention coordinator, told the crowd that he first got involved in a program at the school called Fed Up (Fairness Equity and Democracy Unity and Peace) in 1999. He said the program, which aims to stop name calling and verbal abuse in the school, is still going strong with monthly activities.
"As you will see Mr. Governor you have surely chosen the right location for today," Maloon said from the stage. "Today is about a pledge and commitment that we will make to better ourselves as people. To recognize that words hurt and to show empathy and to stand up for others when we know they are being wrongly treated.
"Simply put today is about respecting those around you. Let's not just talk about it people, let's be about it."
Another reason Patrick chose the Collins was because it is where the chair of the Governor's Youth Council, Victor "Manny" Cruz, went to middle school. The Statewide youth council is comprised of 28 youngsters who representing all 14 counties in Massachusetts.
Justin A. Rice for Boston.com
"This whole event is to empower the youth to find the power in themselves to be resilient about [stopping] bullying," Cruz, who currently attends Salem State University, told the students. "We can overcome bullying in we change our attitudes. If we change our attitudes we can change the Commonwealth, we can change Massachusetts."
"Given the city's history with the 1692 Witch Trials, Cruz said Salem has to serve as an example for the rest of the state.
"We have to show that our history of intolerance is leading us to be a more tolerant community," he said.
Several students also read poetry or shared their experiences today.
"I have stood up to bullies to defend their target and I have also let bullying happen," eighth grader Marleni Tavarez said. "When I bullied people in the past I did so because I didn't feel good about myself. I actually regretted my actions. It didn't make me feel better about myself. I realized my actions were wrong when I put myself I the other person's position."
Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll had the students stand, raise their right hands and pledge to take a stand against bullying and name calling. She also urged students to speak out if they see a peer being bullied.
"If you see it tell us," she said. "If you're doing it we can help you."
Near the end of the event, Patrick, Driscoll and several students signed a board that said they would take a stand against bullying.
When Patrick took the stage, on the heels of Cruz's fiery speech, he acknowledge all the public officials and administrators in the gymnasium before turning to Cruz:
"Should we call him reverend Cruz or should we go right to senator Cruz?" Patrick said. "I'm just nervous about calling him Governor Cruz. Manny, I'm so incredibly proud of you.
"I want to thank all of you students here at Collins for what you are doing today and what you pledge to do to set a tone not just in this community but in all the communities you touch."
Justin A. Rice can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Justin A. Rice for Boston.com