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Global Leadership Academy club builds community to discourage bullying

October is Bullying Prevention Month. To honor caring communities in Mapleton, we are celebrating the thriving bullying prevention student committee at Global Leadership Academy (GLA).  

Brandi Thorman, a GLA math teacher, didn’t know what to expect when she held the first meeting of her Olweus Student Committee this past August. She founded the club unofficially last school year with 10 students, nine of whom were seniors who had since graduated. At that August meeting, she was astonished when about 50 students, representing every grade level, crammed inside her classroom. She asked them all to share why they wanted to join. 

“Almost all of them said something along the lines of ‘we want our school to be a positive place, where people feel safe, comfortable, and included,’” she said. “They wanted our school to be a place they and their classmates look forward to coming to every day.” 

The Olweus (pronounced ol-VAY-us) Bullying Prevention Program is the most researched and best-known bullying prevention program available today. It brings school communities together to prevent bullying through strong relationship-building, meaningful classroom meetings and partnering with families and community members. Mapleton Public Schools added it to all their schools’ curriculum in 2020, and GLA holds weekly seminars for its students every Wednesday. 

Thorman said the primary mission of her club is to build school culture, encourage students’ voices, and provide students with a feeling of ownership of what happens in their school.  

“It makes people feel like they are a part of something so bullying is less likely to happen,” she said. 

Kayla S., a GLA senior and the lone returning club member from last year, doesn’t feel there is much bullying at the school, but thinks her group helps students feel connected. She transferred to GLA during the pandemic and longed to help plan and manage assemblies that bring the school together for games and other fun activities, like her previous school. 

“Those help give the school character and personality, a more traditional high school experience,” she said.  

Other club projects have been simpler, such as members handing out candy or writing messages like “smile” or “I believe in you” in chalk on the sidewalk to welcome students as they entered the building. 

The club’s next big initiative is the formation of a GLA Buddy Program, which will pair volunteering upperclassmen with lowerclassmen who feel they need mentors. The relationships might be more academic in nature, where upperclassmen tutor younger students, help them prep for the PSATs, or share stress management strategies, for instance. Or the partnerships could be more socially based, where a lowerclassman simply wants an older friend.  

“That can be really helpful for students who are feeling lonely or haven’t met friends yet because they might be new to the school or something,” Kayla said. “The younger kids could feel more comfortable just knowing someone who’s been with the school a longer time.” 

Thorman is grateful that, on the whole, she feels the GLA student body cares about each other and their community. She hopes that the collaborative and leadership opportunities her club makes possible will make those bonds even stronger.