One of Green Dot Public Schools’ core values is to respect others in the community, knowing when we rise together, we can meet the toughest challenges. A group of young women at Ánimo Watts College Preparatory Academy exemplifies that respect.
Motivated by personal experiences and hard work, the group, Women of Color (WOC), is working to make their community better by bringing awareness to the impact of bullying and what others can do to stop it. The group of 16 students was created through a specialized class at Ánimo Watts that brings women of color together to learn how to love others and themselves. The class was inspired by the graduate work of Spanish teacher and WOC advisor Lizet Vera.
“During my research, I interviewed some of my students, and noticed the tremendous need to provide our young women with emotional support and a means to empower themselves,” said Vera. Ánimo Watts sophomore Emily Perez was bullied prior to her time at Ánimo Watts in elementary and middle school, making her passionate about the cause. “Bullying impacts people and others don’t even realize it,” said Perez. “We had to take the chance and spread the word about this important issue.”
The WOC began planning a carnival event to build awareness about bullying, promoting safer school communities - both inside and outside school grounds, as well as online - where bullying victims and students who have bullied others alike could learn from one another and work towards common solutions. “For me this is important, because I’ve gone through bullying and I’ve also been a bully, regrettably,” said Lorena Haywood, a sophomore at Ánimo Watts. “I just want to give back to the community and let them know that there are resources and people here for them.”
Being Aware is the First Step
They planned to highlight various types of bullying, the warning signs, and how students may be unknowingly perpetuating bullying in their lives; however, dispelling the misconceptions about bullying in the community proved to be a challenge. “[A lot of kids said] ‘I don’t see people being bullied,’ but they don’t realize that bullying can exist anywhere” said Watts sophomore Emily Perez.
“Bullying is not only a physical attack. Abuse can happen verbally, socially and digitally.”
The WOC hope to create a documentary that features students and staff from Ánimo Watts who have been affected by bullying. By putting faces to bullying, they want to empower more students to take a stand on this issue and move closer to eradicating it. With a clear mission in mind, the passionate WOC students worked diligently with community members and local organizations to plan out their first Bullying Awareness Carnival.
On February 9th, all of their planning came to life at Ánimo Watts. Students, parents, and local community leaders filled the campus, including students from Green Dot’s nearby middle school, Ánimo Mae Jemison. Organizing a community-wide event while balancing academic responsibilities taught the young women the importance of time management and collaboration. The Los Angeles County Sheriff Department, The YWCA, and Shields Counseling Services were some of many community partners in attendance, and a testament to the team’s hard work.
Attendees learned about community resources, how to report bullying, and how to support friends who are being bullied. The event provided students a safe space to gather and engage with a topic that can be difficult to speak about.
The event’s success emboldened them to keep working toward the goal of raising awareness about bullying. “After the carnival we are going to work with other schools on bullying awareness,” said Haywood. “The Bullying Awareness Carnival demonstrated what these young women are capable of,” said Vera. “They are excited to reach out to neighboring schools and spread that positive energy to other youth in the community.”