Bullying is currently one of the most compelling issues students that our generation encounters on a daily basis, whether it is through electronic, physical, or verbal means. Because of this fact, the theme for a six-week Girl Scout program known as P.A.V.E., involving the young female students of Tyler Heights Elementary School, is anti-violence and anti-bullying. Through the observation of the first session, I was able to get an accurate idea of this program and its goals, its methods for reaching these goals, and what this program means to the students.
P.A.V.E. is focused on preventing violence and educating girls about bullying, teaching them how to recognize it (even in themselves) and how to react to it in a positive and healthy way. Coordinator Shira Dowling said the program “teaches the girls how not to be violent and not be victims.” In these sessions the girls participate in activities administered by their troop leader. Each of the activities aims to strengthen the girls against bullying and violence. The activities I personally observed aimed to strengthen self-esteem, a crucial part of effectiveness against bullying and violence. One activity was that the girls had to conceive and draw plans for a respectable Girl Scout uniform. This activity was given so that the girls would think to dress confidently and wisely which would result in respect and self-esteem. The girls then grouped into a circle and discussed the activity and why they did it. Many agreed it was important to find an image of self-respect and appropriateness. They then discussed what they liked about themselves, which required personal reflection resulting in confidence around their peers.
From my personal observations, the girls enjoyed the experience very much and were smiling consistently the entire session. After questioning them individually, many had very positive opinions about the program. For example, fifth grader Blanca Velasquez was excited about the program and said it could help you “show your real self.” I strongly agree with this idea and believe it will be reached through the remainder of the sessions and activities such as role playing and suggested reactions to bullying and violence. This program will have countless benefits not only for the participants but also for the Tyler Heights and surrounding Annapolis community.
Essay by Aristides Hadjipanteli
Photos by Sawdatou Drame & Zahida Ferdaus