On Tuesday, March 13, the Shaker High School World of Difference Club, working alongside Siena College, AT&T and the Tyler Clementi Foundation, helped launch a new initiative to address online safety and digital citizenship for students titled the Siena Upstander Program.
The program is a new cyberbullying peer-to-peer prevention program utilizing trained Siena students, or Cyberbullying Ambassadors, to help educate students, teachers and school administrators and to provide workshops, tools and resources to help them become “upstanders.”
“Being an ‘upstander’ means being an advocate for change,” said Rebecca Goldstein, a Siena sophomore and one of the ambassadors. “Rather than being a bystander, an upstander mentors and supports those who are victims or may become victims of cyberbullying.”
The ambassadors and the World of Difference students spent the better part of the morning in a workshop designed to train them on how to become an Upstander Ambassador. Now this group of close to 20 students are Shaker Upstander Ambassadors at the school and are serving as role models in combating online bullying.
After their morning training, the group hosted two school-wide assemblies for all ninth and tenth graders where the new Shaker ambassadors took on the roles of their predecessors by demonstrating what it meant to be an “upstander” and urging their friends and classmates to be one. They used skits and videos while utilizing age-appropriate dialogue to resonate with the other students.
“In this day in age, where everyone has a cellphone, and some type of social media, kids are getting bullied much easier,” said Siena College Junior and Ambassador Alyssa Lofaro. “Being able to give students these tools allows them to have the confidence to stand up to there cyber bully and tell them it is not ok.”
The hope is that with these skills the Shaker ambassadors and other Shaker students can tackle cyber bullying from the ground up and support a school culture where students feel safe and welcome.
“My hope is with each of these visits that we do we are leaving a mark on the schools,” said Goldstein. “I want students who experience cyberbullying to know that they are not alone and have the resources to stop it.”
World of Difference faculty advisor Lauren Sheeler said she believes the assemblies were especially impactful to Shaker students because the information was presented by their peers.
“When Siena approached us about presenting this important message, we saw it as an opportunity to educate and inform our school in a new way,” said Sheeler. “Hearing directly from their peers made the message that much more powerful and relatable.”
In the Upstate Cyberbullying Census survey conducted in the fall of 2016 by the Siena College Research Institute, AT&T and the Tyler Clementi Foundation, it asked Capital Region teens why cyberbullies target others: physical appearance (42 percent), social awkwardness (34 percent), being thought of as gay (36 percent), the clothes they wear (29 percent), being un-athletic (24 percent), having a disability (20 percent) or being sexually active (21 percent).
Interested in taking the Upstander Pledge? Visit https://tylerclementi.org/pledge/