As Dukes County ambassadors to Gov. Deval Patrick’s statewide youth council, Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School seniors Delmont Araujo and Emma Hallbilsback have had an inside look at politics and public service in the year since they were sworn in at the state house. Now, like seasoned politicians, they are sharing their anti-bullying platform with other Vineyard students through next week’s anti-bullying awareness activities.
On Jan. 25, the school, led by Miss Hallbilsback and Mr. Araujo, will participate in the first annual No Name Calling Day, a provision of anti-bullying legislation that was signed in May 2010. Students are also encouraged to wear black as part of a Black Out Bullying campaign.
Anti-bullying is “a big topic right now,” Mr. Araujo, 18, said, though he thinks the problem is less prevalent on the Island than in other communities.
“But definitely the middle schools have it,” Miss Hallbilsback, 17, added. “Kids need to be aware that this actually is happening. And bullying is different now than it used to be, because of cyber-bullying. Kids used to have a break when they went home, and now it’s constant.”
The two plan to put up fliers about the event, and supporters can “like” a Facebook page. Students will be encouraged to sign a banner with a pledge against bullying outside the cafeteria: “Today, I will take a stand against bullying and name-calling.” After everyone signs the pledge, Miss Hallbilsback said, it will hang in the school “so all the kids can be aware of it.”
They also hope to take their message to the middle schools on Jan. 25, with plans to speak to students about anti-bullying awareness. Now that legislation has been enacted, they said, it is time to spread awareness about the issue.
The student body has knowledgeable sources in Ms. Hallbilsback and Mr. Araujo. “I’ve learned a ton about bullying,” Mr. Araujo said. “There’s a lot more to it than I think that people really realize.” The two listed the three main components of bullying: something that happens multiple times, has an intention to hurt, and where one person has more power.
Miss Hallbilsback was also one of 5,000 students who attended an anti-bullying event in December at Northeastern University.
The governor’s youth council voted on an anti-bullying platform during one of their bimonthly meetings. The process of serving on the council — two students from each county are selected for two-year terms — was an education in compromise, politics, and the rest of the state, Miss Hallbilsback and Mr. Araujo said.
The two are nearing graduation. Miss Hallbilsback plans to take a gap year to travel in New Zealand, while Mr. Araujo plans to play football in college. Beyond learning about anti-bullying awareness, they said they have benefitted from their look at inside politics.
Miss Hallbilsback, who wants to be a farmer, said she might blend her interests in the future by lobbying for small farms.
“It’s a cool experience. I’ve never really been involved with politics until now,” Mr. Araujo said. “Now I’m 18, I can vote, so it helped me really get welcomed to politics.”