Setting a positive tone
Students at Rutherfordton Elementary School were given a special anti-bullying presentation by Travis Walker, Boy Scout leader, on Wednesday.
Walker and other volunteers spoke to fourth and fifth grade students about making the right choices and not falling victim to peer pressure when it comes to bullying.
"The intent is that hopefully some other schools will take on the same concept of putting this out to these children. It's positive reinforcement from grown men," Walker said. "The Lord put it on my heart to get the men I think highly of and bring them here to speak."
Volunteer speakers included Norman Aiken, teacher and bus driver with Rutherford County Schools; Officer Robert Martin, Gang Resistance Education and Training (G.R.E.A.T.) officer; Chris Burley, coordinator of Safe Kids of Rutherford County and Ned Harbin, retired Air Force member and Boy Scout leader.
"Bullying is not cool and it's not something your parents would want for you," Harbin told the students.
October is National Bullying Prevention Month and Michelle Webber, guidance counselor at Rutherfordton, said that although she doesn't think the school has a problem with bullies, any reinforcement from positive male role models is beneficial to the students.
"If we are going to start a fire, let's start a fire for good," Walker said. "If we are going to light these children up, let's not send them on a path to negativity, lets put them out there to set a fire for positive things."
Burley shared a story with the students about his experience with bullying at a young age.
"I was not one of the big boys in my class and I got picked on a little bit. I'm a product of being bullied and it wasn't cool at the time," Burley told the students. "You need to have the ability to stand up and talk to other people about it. Whenever someone starts to treat people in a way that isn't right, communication can break down some of those barriers."
Walker was also a victim but said that the students of Rutherfordton could change the tone.
"In school I was short and incredibly heavy-set and kids would pick on me. But we need to know that we don't lift ourselves up by putting others down," Walker told the students. "We want ya'll to be leaders and set the tone. Be a beacon for other kids."
He encouraged the students to respect each other and embrace diversity, put others before themselves and to always have positive attitudes.
"You have to set a foundation, you are young enough to do that now," Walker said.