The message was loud and clear at local schools in recent weeks: Words can hurt.
Dozens of schools throughout Long Island held activities last month that ranged from signing anti-bullying pledges to participating in themed skits in recognition of National Bullying Prevention Month, a campaign initiated by PACER's National Bullying Prevention Center in Minnesota.
In Port Jefferson, middle school students were asked to wear orange as a symbol of solidarity during the school's Unity Day and displayed posters with bullying statistics in the halls. They also viewed an anti-bullying video based around the 2011 song "Skyscraper" by Demi Lovato, who was inspired to write the tune as a result of her own experiences with bullying.
"There are some kids who don't realize they are the ones who are bullying," seventh-grader Maddi Leon said. "That's why it's important for everyone to take things like this seriously and confront bullies."
In Setauket, Paul J. Gelinas Junior High School students performed an original play, titled "Choices," that focused on a teen's struggle with the consequences of texting an inappropriate picture and how bullying affected the characters. Debbie Johnston, the school's social worker, also discussed ways to identify a bully and strategies to address bullying issues.
In Amityville, Park Avenue Memorial Elementary School welcomed officials from Child Abuse Prevention Services in Roslyn for a series of multimedia workshops titled "Steer Clear of Bullies" that promoted empathy, socialization skills and assertiveness in children.
Ridge Elementary School students formed a "circle of kindness" on the school's lawn, recited a bully-free pledge and sang a song from the school's character education program.
Teamwork pays off
Coram Elementary School third-graders in Jennifer Malvetti's class recently learned the benefits of teamwork during a unique assignment in which they joined forces to write letters to 93 pro football, basketball and baseball teams for tips on working as a team.
The effort resulted in representatives from 20 teams -- ranging from the Arizona Cardinals to Chicago Cubs -- replying with anti-bullying tips and items such as bookmarks and banners, school officials said.
Twenty student-athletes from Earl L. Vandermeulen High School recently volunteered as helpers to disabled youth during a baseball game coordinated by the Miracle League of Long Island, a nonprofit designed to establish and sustain baseball programs for disabled individuals. Tasks ranged from assisting players in batting and running to protecting them from stray balls.
"Not only is this an important outlet for the players, but it also gives the volunteers an opportunity to see the struggles of kids with disabilities on a moment-by-moment basis," said Therese Blanton, a Miracle League board member.
Dozens of Suffolk County schools educated children on the importance of fire safety last month through various programs held in celebration of National Fire Prevention Month.
In Centerport, Washington Drive Primary School students observed kindergarten teacher Andrea Dini and Centerport firefighters dressed in safety gear to reduce fears they might have if they ever encounter a firefighter in an emergency. "If there is an emergency, we are your friends," Centerport firefighter David McGovern said.
In Port Jefferson, Edna Louise Spear Elementary School students watched members of the Port Jefferson Fire Department ascend some 100 feet into the air on a rescue ladder during a demonstration intended to introduce pupils to the various functions of a firetruck.
In Amityville, Northeast Elementary School kids toured a firetruck provided by the Amityville Fire Department and received replica fire helmets.
The New York Farm Bureau is accepting entries for its 2013 Agricultural Youth Scholarship, which is open to high school seniors who have been involved with agriculture and plan on continuing studies in this field. This year's essay topic is: "If you had the power to change something in your community or on your farm, what would it be and why?"
Long Island's regional winner will advance to the state level and be eligible for the following awards: $1,500 for first place, $1,200 for second place and $1,000 for third place.
The submission deadline is Nov. 18. The application is available at www.nyfb.com.