A group of students at Amherst Central High School officially trained to become "Upstander Ambassadors". WBFO's senior reporter Eileen Buckley says they will work to combat cyberbullying.
More than 20 Amherst High students gathered in a circle for a 'peer-to-peer' training session learning how to stand up against cyberbullying.
AT&T, Tyler Clementi Foundation and Siena College have joined forces to bring this program into schools. AT&T said Amherst is the first to train in Western New York. So far, a total of 12-schools in New York State have offered the workshops to students.
Last year a Siena study revealed some sobering numbers on cyberbullying. In Western New York more than one in five students have been a victim of cyberbullying.
Siena is providing college students to serve as cyberbullying ambassador facilitators, making it easier for high school students to relate and train with someone closer to their age group.
“Cause we are so close in age, they just relate to us so well and it makes the message so much more powerful,” said Emily Murphy, junior at Siena College. “And having them be able to relate to me is really important because I am at a point in my life where I’m kind of able to step back and say hey – I can deal with this.”
"I really think it is something that we kind of turn our heads a little bit more than we probably should,” declared Matthew Cullen, junior at Amherst High School.
Cullen joined Quinn Decicco, also a junior at the school, in the training session.
“Probably what I would want to walk away with today is a way to comfort it and a way to minimize it. I don’t think there is ever a way to completely defeat anything except there’s always ways to try to minimize it the best you can,” Cullen explained.
“I think the same thing, but I would also like to walk away with a way to prevent it in the first place and try to see if can minimize it from the start so it doesn’t even become an issue,” Decicco said.
“I think it happens no matter if you like it or not,” Cullen noted. “There’s always going to be those people – I definitely there’s ways to avoid. On social media you can always hit a block button – just kind of ignore someone. I think that is one of the best ways to approach it, especially if you are the victim, just try to ignore it.”
“I’ve definitely seen a lot through social media and it happens to everyone – it happens to everyone. It just goes around,” Decicco remarked.
Assistant principal Timothy Wiles tells us his students are now pledging not to be bystander of cyberbullying.
“Without fear of retaliation. They can speak up. They can let adults know. They can speak up for themselves, for their friends or for someone they don’t even know – they just know what’s going on,” Wiles noted.
AT&T's Ben Roberts said us they hope to expand this program in other schools next year.
“Spread the word – how to be an ‘Upstander’ – which is consoling, disrupting, reporting cyberbullying – not just in the school, but go out in the community. They’ll get digital tool kits – they’ll be able to use these tools to be able to go out and talk with other groups, churches, youth groups and throughout the school as well,” Roberts explained.
The program is giving more students the courage to speak out against cyberbullying in school and in their communities.