MARQUETTE - Bullying is a problem that's as commonly attributed to the high school experience as sloppy joes and study hall, but the students at Marquette Alternative High School are trying to change that.
Love Out Loud, a student organization at MAHS, is hosting a "Walk Against Bullying" at 1 p.m. May 23.
The walk will begin in the parking lot of the Graveraet School, move to Front Street, Washington Street, Third Street and then back to the school on Hewitt Street.
Marquette Alternative High School sophomore McKayla Lamere, left, gives Farmer Q’s owner Susan Brian a flyer about the school’s anti-bullying walk. Students visited several area businesses, asking them to post the flyers. (Journal photo by Jackie Stark)
"(Bullying) affects everybody ... This school is a place where a lot of people have come because of bullying and because of the inability to fit in or something to that extant," said Sophia Novak, one of the event's student organizers. "In every school, there's bullying. There's not one place in the world that doesn't have an issue with bullying. It needs to be done.
"There needs to be something done about that."
People from the community are welcome to participate in the walk, though participants are asked to arrive at 12:45 p.m. to facilitate organization of the event.
Novak and fellow organizer Zarah Black said the hope is to raise awareness on an issue that not only pervades schools across the country, but also workplaces, homes and anywhere else people are.
"Bullying, it goes on outside the schools," Novak said. "It's in offices. It's in establishments. It's everywhere. Bullying is everywhere."
The idea began in a small setting, inside MAHS English teacher Cindy DePetro's Women's Literature class.
After students in that class organized a school-wide fundraiser that helped raise money for a patient in Marquette General Hospital's Oncology Department who might not otherwise be able to afford treatment, they wanted to do something else, something that involved more people from the community.
The idea of organizing a walk against bullying was voted on and the students moved forward with the event quickly.
"It started with all of us looking at ourselves and saying, at some point in time, we have been part of the problem of bullying," Novak said. "We have been the bully, we have been the person that has been rude or mean and its become us wanting to become a part of the solution and put an end to it."
The group has been pounding the pavement all month, looking for local businesses willing to hang their Love Out Loud fliers and for community members to join them in their cause.
They've already got a long list of people who accepted their invitation to be a part of the walk including Marquette Area Public Schools Superintendent Deb Veiht, Marquette City Mayor John Kivela, members of the Marquette Police Department, Olympic snowboarder Nick Baumgartner and many others.
The students have also formulated an anti-bullying contract that students in the school have already signed, asking them to not be bullies and to report bullying if they see it.
And that contract won't be confined to people inside the school's walls.
"We are going to ask the people who are walking with us to sign an anti-bullying contract," DePetro said. "You see it, you hear it, you stop it."
Love Out Loud was chosen as the name of the organization and the event's slogan because it fits easily into the mentality the anti-bullying walk is meant to showcase.
"If you outwardly do the right thing, love others, you will not have to worry about bullying," DePetro said. "Probably the most insidious form of bullying are the people who stand by and do nothing. That's why these girls chose 'Love Out Loud.' Because you have to say something. You can't be silent."
Jackie Stark can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242.