Highland Middle School students learn skills to prevent bullying at annual event

Grade 6 Highland Middle School students Maryanna Scalo and Carys Hinspeter show off the bracelets they received after “Don’t be a Monster” program on October 19.

For the fourth year in a row, Highland Middle School (HMS) presented its “Don’t Be a Monster” anti-bullying program on October 19. The assembly was brought to the school thanks to Ulster Park’s Headless Horseman Hayrides & Haunted Houses owners Michael and Nancy Jubie.

“Don’t Be A Monster” focuses on creating a kind environment in local schools. Headless Horseman illusionist Ryan Dutcher introduced the students to facts about bullying, including every seven seconds someone gets bullied, and many students who have been bullied contemplate suicide. In fact, PBS corroborates these statistics by stating “…youth involved in bullying in any capacity — both bullies and victims of bullying — were more likely to think about and attempt suicide than youth who were not involved in bullying. In short, bullying is bad for everyone involved.”

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Grade 6 Highland Middle School student Aidyn Scott gets a high five from Headless Horseman Hayrides & Haunted Houses illusionist Ryan Dutcher, who emceed the “Don’t be a Monster” program.

Dutcher advised the students to be themselves and not to worry about conforming to fit in. “The minute you graduate from high school, no one cares what group or clique you belong to, so just be yourself,” says Dutcher, who was also once a victim of bullying.

The students were then introduced to Frank Shelly, a friendly monster, who has experienced bullying and visits schools to encourage students to look at how their behavior affects others. The presentation of “Don’t Be A Monster” helps discourage students from being bullies and teaches them how they can be proactive if they see someone being bullied.

The event wrapped up with students receiving wristbands that showed that they’ve chosen to be compassionate and accepting of people who are different from themselves .

HMS Assistant Principal Meghan Connors says that “The Don’t Be a Monster program directly supports the district’s vision statement. “We welcome opportunities to learn and collaborate with our community. This anti-bullying program teaches and reminds everyone that the choices we make can have an impact not only on ourselves, but also on our peers.”

Grade 6 Highland Middle School students Jasmine Conte and Leah Klotz show off the bracelets they received after the “Don’t be a Monster” program on October 19.

Grade 6 Highland Middle School student Kiyara Edwards gets a high five from Frank Shelly, a character from the “Don’t be a Monster” program. Classmate Kameron Sellers waits for his turn to meet Shelly.

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