Archive for the ‘Communities for Change’ Category

By Kaylee Layman
Cougar News Blog

Cactus Canyon Junior High school’s staff was talking a lot about bullying during the week of April 29. Each day there was a new message was highlighted in the announcements and Communities 4 Change members put together a week for students to show how they feel.
This week was packed and ended with a guest speaker and a dance.
The idea behind the spirit week was repetition because administrators felt students needed to hear the anti-bullying message over and over so they can begin to apply it to their lives.
“Over time this will start to get to student,” said assistant principal Joyce Gingrich.
This made a positive impact on the school as a whole by allowing student to express how bullying has affected them or people they know.
“When I was at the high school the other day I saw one of last year’s students sticking up for a kid that was being bullied,” Gingrich said. “I was so proud to see that we are really getting through to the students.”

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By Holly Stillman
Cougar News Blog

Last Friday, guest speaker Mark Trombino from Motivational Small Talk Incorporation visited Cactus Canyon to share his inspiring story and guide the students through bullying and how to overcome it.
His presentation included funny impressions, a few clips from inspiring movies, and stories about his past.
Staff, students, and Mr. Trombino himself were very excited for Friday’s visit and were hopeful that the assembly would be a success.
“I was very excited to visit Cactus Canyon,” said Trombino. “I have heard great things about the school and know that this message will help improve an already excellent school.”
Students from Cactus Canyon had to walk to the high school’s PAC center after attendance was done in their ZAP classes to attend the presentation that lasted about an hour.
Principal Courtney Castelhano was enthusiastic about Trombino’s visit and hopes it will make students think twice before acting in a way that might hurt someone else. Her goal is to make Cactus Canyon a safer, happier school.
“We truly want to create a culture of caring and kindness here at CCJH,” said Castelhano.
Students appreciated how Trombino intertwined his life into the presentation to make them realize that he’s an average person just like them and how easy it was for him to get bullied.
“My favorite part of the assembly was when he integrated his life story into the presentation,” said seventh grader Ashli Albertsen. “I love hearing experiences from other people because it makes me feel how real it is.”
Trombino, a little person, is 3 feet 3 inches tall and knows just how hard it is for kids and knows how it feels to be different from others, which is why he created his organization to help kids through bullying.
“I started Motivational Small Talk with my partner Gail (six) years ago. Since then, we have spoken at hundreds of schools and impacted thousands of lives,” he said. “So I am very confident this message will hit home with the students, staff, and community. It will help empower those who are bullied to stand up for themselves.”
As planned, many students walked away from the assembly with a new outlook on bullying and how they can make Cactus Canyon a better school.
“Mr. Trombino’s visit impacted my views on bullying because he gave examples on the different ways bullying can happen,” said seventh grader Trinity Izbicki. “He gave examples of his own personal experiences with bullying and that bullying can come in many different forms, whether it has to deal with shortness or the way you look. Either way, bullying is not OK and Mr. Trombino presented that it isn’t and that we should take a part in it and become better people.”
Overall, students said the assembly was a fun and entertaining presentation they were glad they had the opportunity to attend the assembly.
“I enjoyed the presentation greatly because the speaker touched my heart and made me realize that bullying is a huge problem and that everyone should take a part and try to put a stop to it,” said Izbicki.

By Holly Stillman
Cougar News Blog

The Communities for Change organization paid a visit to Superstition Mountain Elementary School March 8 to raise awareness on bullying in other schools.
The group, which has members from Cactus Canyon Junior High and Apache Junction High School, held two assemblies, one for kindergartners through second grade and one for third grade through sixth grade. Three members of C4C gave speeches to the younger kids and shared their bullying experiences. For some, the experience was very moving.
“The visit was very emotional for most of us,” said eighth grader Abby Davis. “It was difficult to talk about being bullied in front of such a large audience, in the end though, it was well worth it.”
Many of the junior high students found it easy to connect with the elementary kids, either by mutual friends, having the same interests, or have been bullied themselves. Most students at SMES were able to relate to the acts of bullying.
“The students were a lot like us in ways. They were already experiencing some things that I wasn’t exposed to until my fifth grade year in elementary school,” Davis said. “It’s nice for them to be able to relate to someone who is older than them and feel comfortable enough to share what was going on in their lives. These students agree that bullying is wrong and something needs to be done about it.”
Most C4C members thought of the visit as a fun way to connect with younger students and teach them how to better themselves, while others saw it as an opportunity to inspire others with their own accounts of bullying.
“I chose to go because I know what it feels like to be bullied. I made incorrect decisions on how to deal with that bully and that is something I really regret,” said Davis. “I want the students to learn that what is happening to some of them is not right and shouldn’t happen. Our group also wants to stress the correct way to deal with one, like I said, I regret what I did to stop the person that was bullying me and I don’t want anyone else to deal with that.”
Cougars for Change thought of ways for them to leave their “paw prints” on the school to remind them that bullying is not okay and that we all must work together to prevent bullying from happening.
“We had each group play a game that taught them more about a specific value,” said C4C adviser Jessica Kucenski. “We then read a story about bullying to the K to second-grade group. C4C members shared their personal experiences about bullying to the third to sixth grade (group).”
The event was such a success, C4C plans to do this again with other elementaries in the district soon.
“We would like to visit the other three elementary schools in the future,” said Kuenski, “We are also considering putting on an assembly next year for both Cactus Canyon and AJ High. We personalize each one, so each one is slightly different and unique.”
C4C saw this visit as a chance to reach out to others in our community and work together to prevent bullying at our schools.
“Our school district needs to work together, and our schools need to support one another,” Kucenski said. “I think that these visits are a great way to do that. C4C wanted to make sure that SMES students know that we support their values. We support their efforts to stand up against bullying, and if we work together, we can do far more than anything alone.”

By Malorie Eagar
Cougar News Blog

Many eighth graders at Cactus Canyon will remember the Kick Off With Kelsey that happened Feb. 29, 2012. On Feb. 28, Communities4Change celebrated its one-year anniversary by gathering to watch the movie “Bully,” the documentary on bullying that was filmed in 2011.
The group wanted to show that particular movie to show the effects of bullying – how it affects students in and out of school and how individuals can stop it.
“I really hope that the people who participated realize what bullying can lead to,” said eighth grader Sarah Ferraro.
The group had been planning to play this movie for quite some time, and couldn’t wait to show the film to the people who come, which was an estimated 40-50 people.
Ms. Kucenski began the afternoon by showing the To This Day Project video on YouTube posted by poet and animator Shane Koyczan. The project is a video about bullying that sums up what happened to Koyczan and two others as kids, where they are now, and what students can do about bullying.
“I have seen the To This Day Project before,” said Ferraro. “I enjoyed it very much. It was very inspiring.”
After the movie, ninth grader Kelsey Martinez, president of Communities4Change, made a speech that talked about her past experiences with bullying and how it has affected her and her loved ones.
Ms. Kucenski said she hoped the event helped raise awareness that bullying, which continues to be a major issue in schools despite receiving a great deal media exposure in recent years.
“I hope that students walked away with a better understanding of how prevalent bullying is in our schools and how they can make a difference to stop it,” said Kucenski.

By Malorie Eagar
Cougar News Blog

During the first semester, Communities4Change has sold candy grams, entered a video to an anti-bullying contest, hosted a clothing drive, and had a dance off.
This semester will be just as busy and the group has decided what it’s doing next. C4C members will be traveling to each AJUSD elementary school to talk about bullying, why it’s wrong, and how to stop it, along with planning what members will be doing for the group’s one year anniversary.
“C4C members will lead each assembly by talking about bullying and what students can do about it,” said adviser Jessica Kucenski.
At the elementary schools, the group will be splitting the grades up into two separate assemblies, with an activity at the end for each. The groups will be kindergarten through third grade, then fourth through sixth.
The kindergarten through third graders will be making hands that say “This hand will make a change” and then posting them around their schools. The fourth through sixth graders will be signing a large poster that says, “I pledge to be the change” and hanging it in their school’s cafeteria or gym.
“C4C will (also) be performing skits for kindergarten through third graders,” Kucenski said.
Carlos the Cougar will be at each assembly, and local author Kathy Hughes will be reading her book, “Bull Dozer Learns To Be A Friend.” After that, police officers will be talking to the students about the effects of bullying.

Bags of gently used clothing fill a box in one teacher’s ZAP class.

By Megan Lay
Cougar News Blog

Every year millions of children go without food, new clothes, or toys for Christmas. So this year Communities for Change is making a difference and holding a community drive.
The drive began Monday and will conclude Friday, Nov. 30. That way the toys and other items can go to people in time for Christmas. C4C members think this is good for showing teenagers and others another way to make a difference in their community.
Danielle PaezAngulo said, “I think it’s a good idea because many families don’t have the money to buy their kids toys for Christmas.”
The group is asking students to bring their donations of canned food and new or gently used toys and clothes to their ZAP class. The class that brings the most will earn a reward.
C4C advisor Jessica Kucenski said, “The winning ZAP class will receive a doughnut or hot chocolate party.”
C4C is working with “The Stuff Bus” foundation as well as Mission Community Church and other local food pantries.

By Bobby Bauders
Cougar News Blog

Communities for Change hosted an event called Your Story Matters to help bullied students to know that they’re not alone. The event took place at Apache Junction High School on Sept. 27.
A PowerPoint presentation was used to display pictures, quotes, music, and talking points. Organizer Jessica Kucenski and C4C president Kelsey Martinez helped set up the event.
“During the presentation, we had several students who were willing to share their own stories,” said Kucenski. “It was amazing because I could see how much the audience could relate.”
Kucenski hopes that this will encourage more people to speak up. C4C wanted people to attend because their entire goal is to raise awareness to stop bullying.
“I’ve been bullied, I have a bully,” said eighth grader Sarah Ferraro. “I started to cry because I know I am stronger than these bullies.”
Students said the entire presentation was very emotional and many people were crying. Most of C4C was there, including freshman Dominique Klatt.
“It was a hopeful meeting that brought us closer together by letting us know that we’re not alone,” Klatt said. “I loved hearing everyone else’s stories.”
This is the only time C4C plans to do this, but the club plans on doing similar events.
“This was a one-time deal,” Kucenski said. “We might consider doing something similar again in the future if we feel it will have some sort of benefit to others.”

By Malorie Eagar
Cougar News Blog

Communities 4 Change wanted to do something for October since it’s National Bullying Prevention Month. Back in August, the group decided to have a contest between AJHS and Cactus Canyon to see who could come up with the best bullying-prevention event.
CCJH eighth grader Cheyanne Getz won the contest, and her idea was to let students buy candy grams for someone they had hurt. Getz said the idea came to her while sitting in class thinking about the contest, and what she could do for it.
“I really just hope that since the candy Grams are anonymous that people won’t be afraid to just take a minute or two to apologize for something they had witnessed or done to somebody else to potentially hurt them physically or mentally,” Getz said. “Not only that but also for people that had not done something about it for themselves.”
The candy grams will start being sold on Oct. 29 during lunch, then passed out on Nov. 2.
The idea with them is to send them to someone they may have hurt, someone they have seen bullied and did nothing to step in, or even to someone who has picked on them.
“When I was in fifth grade, I had a girl who used to bully me. We both made the cross country team, and we had to work together,” said C4C adiviser Jessica Kucenski. “Instead of hating her, I decided to help her. I gave her useful tips and cheered her on. We never became friends, but she never picked on me after that.”
Kucenski said she wants students to understand that “kindness cures everything.”
“It can soften the hardest heart,” she said. “We all deserve to be treated with respect, but sometimes we don’t get that respect.”