Education

Published on May 24th, 2016 | by Millennium Magazine Staff

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Columbia Fireflies Team Up with District Five School for Anti-Bullying Campaign

Pictured Students at Dutch Fork Middle School met with players from the Columbia Fireflies

IRMO – Columbia’s new minor league baseball team, the Fireflies, met with 71 students at Dutch Fork Middle School recently to support the school’s anti-bullying campaign called Hate Won’t Win. Established last fall by history teacher Lori Wenzinger, the Hate Won’t Win chapter at the school is part of a national movement.

“I went on a Holocaust study tour for two weeks over the summer, five days after the Charleston attack,” explained Wenzinger. “As a South Carolina history teacher thinking, how do I teach this, seeing the destructiveness of hate, I knew that I had to make it real for the kids, to empower them to make a difference.”

Since the beginning of the school year, Wenzinger motivated her students to spread the word through social media and a letter-writing campaign. As a group, the students have received responses from the White House, from Governor Haley, from sports personalities like Coach Dabo Swinney at Clemson and Coach Dawn Staley at USC, as well as from other leaders in the state and local community.  Just this week, the Richland County Sheriff’s Department added their support to the campaign.

“We also had a pledge drive here at the school and over 1,100 students signed the Hate Won’t Win pledge and took the challenge for acts of kindness,” said Wenzinger. “The more encouragement we received, the more I realized that we needed partnership in the community.”

Wenzinger contacted the Fireflies home office and found immediate interest in collaborating with the school to help get the word out about bullying, especially in schools. More than just a photo opportunity for the team, the event was the first of three meetings the team will have with the students as part of a project-based learning initiative supervised by Wenzinger.

At the initial meeting, the team members introduced themselves and several groups were formed—one team member for every four students—in order to have the players lead a discussion about bullying and how to handle these situations in school. The students were assigned to create a skit and practice it for the team at the next meeting. At their third meeting, each group will perform for the team and one skit will be selected to be videotaped and aired on the big screen at the stadium during the May 24 game.

Richard Astro, Academic Liaison for the New York Mets, which owns the Columbia Fireflies, travels the country to each of the Mets’ affiliate teams, establishing similar programs within local communities. “I’m just very grateful that we’ve been invited to Dutch Fork Middle School,” said Astro. “We conduct anti-bullying programs throughout the entire organization, but it’s rare to go into a school where a program is already in place, and where there is a heightened awareness of issues involving hate. The work that’s been done here is so exciting that I intend to integrate it into all our programs in the entire organization.”

Outfielder Joe Tuschak remarked that the Hate Won’t Win campaign at the school is a win-win event. “Any way we can help in the community is always a good thing for us. Especially coming out here to the middle school,” he said. “There is a new era of bullying, with posting pictures and texting. It’s not the fights in the school as much as the online bullying. No one needs to be put down. We should be positive. That’s why we’re all here, that’s why we’re put on this earth—to help one another out and to excel at what we do.”

Lexington-Richland District Five Chief Information Officer Mark Bounds spoke to the students and players about their commitment to the Hate Won’t Win campaign. “You all are changing this community, you’re changing the state, you’re changing the world as middle schoolers—that’s pretty awesome!”

Learn more about the Hate Won’t Win chapter at Dutch Form Middle School on their Facebook page and on Twitter (@hwwdfms).

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