Thursday, October 23, 2014

Act Now! & Laugh it Up Milwaukee
by Jennifer Tomazic

WEST ALLIS --  Students are learning to stop bullying before it goes any further, thanks to a computer program and virtual schools created in Southeast Wisconsin.

Students at Frank Lloyd Wright Intermediate School in West Allis also attend Newbridge Middle school.  It's in cyberspace but it has all the workings of a real school, including bullying.

The program is called Act Now! and it's all about bullying, something 6th grader Emily Hayes says she sees it at her school.

"I feel really bad for the person who its happening to and sometimes I wish everybody would just stop," said Emily.

That's the goal of the e-learning program that the Children's Hospital of Wisconsin put together for fourth through eight grade students. It combines a little old fashion instruction with the interactive lessons on how to help bullying victims, how to ask an adult for help, and how to put a stop to it.

"I think it's a good mix because you get to interact with a computer and with people and that way you can see everyone's ideas and you can speak for yourself sometimes," said Emily.

"We want kids to have some tools on how to deal with it and to recognize it and how to examine their own behavior.  This curriculum really supports those discussions that we're trying to have," said school counselor Nic Bur.

He starts those discussions and he says he's seen progress on stopping bullying in Frank Lloyd Wright Intermediate School since the program started there.

Bridget Clementi with Children's Hospital of Wisconsin got a chance to see Act Now! in action, and says it's doing just what the hospital intended.

"Which is, to get those bystanders, which is 80% of students, to act in some way, to raise awareness, call attention and reduce ultimately  the bullying happening in our schools," said Clementi.

That lesson is so important, the Harry and Rose Samson Family Jewish Community Center is hosted an event recently with the Bayshore Community Foundation, that raised funds for Act Now! so more students can benefit.

"Bullying isn't something that happens on the southside or the northside it's everywhere. It shows it's face in ways that are so overwhelming that we felt like we really needed to make a difference," said Mark Shapiro, executive director of Harry and Rose Samson Family Jewish Community Center.

Each year, the two organizations pick an issue to support with their Laugh it Up Milwaukee event. He says it's a good way to show organizations working together for the good of the community.