Fourteen-year-old brings anti-bullying program to her school
It is often said and bred into children’s minds that “You are never too young to make a difference.” On May 31, at the generationOn annual benefit in New York City, six young volunteers were honored with the third annual Hasbro Community Action Hero Awards for exemplifying this statement.
The purpose of the Hasbro Community Action Hero Award is to recognize youth volunteers who are making their mark on the local or global community. Each winner is awarded with a $1,000 educational scholarship.
One of the recipients of the award this year was Bellerose’s own Maryam Farooq. At just 14 years old, Farooq brought the nationally recognized anti-bullying program, No Place For Hate to her school. Along with her committee members she organized and led student assemblies and workshops on the signs of bullying and how to deal with it.
“It was total excitement when I found out I won the award,” said Farooq. “I was on vacation at the time so it was like all good things were happening at once.”
As part of the No Place For Hate program, Farooq also helped to implement anti-bullying lessons into the school’s curriculum. Previously, bullying was swept under the rug or dealt with through disciplinary measures by adults. The program that Farooq brought her school is now part of an important and open dialogue, which allows students to feel like they can take the first steps toward preventing and ending bullying.
Getting involved in anti-bullying programs like No Place For Hate was in no way pre-planned for Farooq. One of her teachers, Ms.Thompson, who had previously done work in the area of bullying, was the one who inspired her. Farooq spoke to Thompson about her previous work and then quickly began implementing her plan to get anti-bullying programs into Irwin Altman Middle School 172.
Farooq also found tremendous help from her guidance counselor Marcia Kasner. Kasner herself was recently awarded the Alexander Bodini Prize for Diversity for extraordinary leadership. In order to get No Place For Hate into the school, Kasner helped assemble a committee of 12 eighth-graders, and one student committee president, Farooq, who were willing to give up lunch hours to fill out forms and help get the program started.
“Once we started meeting, the NPFH program took off like wildfire and our committee was coming up with anti-bullying lessons, projects and assemblies,” said Kasner. “The staff quickly caught the enthusiasm, and we were engaged in constant anti-bullying activities throughout the year.”
Even before Farooq’s efforts to bring No Place For Hate to the school, Kasner always knew that this particular student was going to make a difference.
“Maryam was always a student with extraordinary leadership skills, intelligence and an admirable work ethic,” said Kasner. “I believe that Maryam is forever changed and I know she is always going to devote part of her life to doing whatever she can to reduce bullying and save lives.”
It appears that Kasner’s prediction for Farooq’s future is already becoming true. But despite the significant work Farooq has already done in the field of anti-bullying in her middle school she is not done yet. Now that she is graduating from middle school, Farooq plans to bring similar programs over to her high school.
“Now that I’ve made great connections with generationOn and No Place For Hate, I plan on helping to bring programs like these to high school,” said Farooq. “A lot of schools don’t have these programs and they are free so there is really no reason not to.”
GenerationOn is the global youth service movement igniting the power of all kids to make their mark on the world. Their mission is “to inspire, equip, and mobilize youth to take action that changes the world and themselves through service.” As one of the lucky few who were honored by generationOn and Hasbro this year, Farooq certainly has begun to follow the words of this mission by making her mark on the world one school at a time.
“I would advise victims of bullying to remember that they are not alone,” said Farooq. “Never be afraid to tell a friend or an adult when you feel like you are being bullied. There are always going to be people out there who want to hear your story.”