The high school environment can be a big challenge for some students. Today and tomorrow we will take you inside the Charter School for Applied Technologies (CSAT) in Buffalo. WBFO's senior reporter Eileen Buckley begins our on-going series called 'Cafeteria Chats'.
In a corner of the charter school's cafeteria, we sat at a round table. Over three lunch periods, we chatted with nine students as they shared what it’s like being a teenager in high school.
“My name is Roman Laney and I am a junior/senior. Some of the big challenges for me, just coming in, try to be myself and work to the best of my ability every single day. There’s a lot of distractions around, bunch of different personalities you’ve got to mingle with, but just trying to do my best and perform to the best of my ability,” explained Laney.
The students described pressure to complete their academics, balance a social life and deal with peer pressure. Some are being bullied.
“I’ve been bullied for 11-years of my life and I’m still bullied,” declared Shari Csizmadia.
One of the most profound bullying stories emerged during our chat. Csizmadia is a junior. She said she gets bullied because she's diabetic.
“Because of my diabetes. I’m a Type I and many students are like ‘oh – it’s dio-betes girl’ or oh you know my machine beeps so everyone is like ‘oh my God she’s dying’, so it’s just horrible sometimes and it’s really stressful, but I just kind of think of it’s going to go away, it’s going to go away eventually,” Csizmadia described.
Junior Katie Jo Williams also described being bullied.
“Elementary going into middle school I was bullied a lot. It shut me out of everybody else now because back then I was such a social butterfly. I talked to everyone. I tried to be friends with everyone. I was just that nice of a girl and now I just have my few close friends,” explained Williams.
“What do you get bullied about?” asked Buckley. “I was called a prostitute back in elementary school. I didn’t know what it was until I asked my mom until I went home that day and she told me what it was and why I wanted to know. I told her I was called it in one of my art classes,” Williams said.
“Is it a different culture for the girls?” asked Buckley. “Um, yeah,” Williams responded.
The male students gave us a different perspective on bullying. They said they actually experience more comradery with their friends.
“Nobody really gets bullied because everybody gets along, like everyone gets along here,” said Dennison Stone, senior at CSAT.
“Have you ever experienced yourself?” asked Buckley. “No”, said replied Stone.
Stone also noted he has never witnessed others getting bullied and that the school keeps a strict policy in place against bullying.
Lieoneo Prodomo is also a senior. He told us he's never been bullied or witnessed it.
“Over here no. It’s like – you know it’s like small schools, so everybody knows each other and everybody is always looking out for each other,” Prodomo explained. “It’s like everybody knows each other – we – in a small school – so we either get along or like it goes the other way, so everybody just get along with each other.”
It is a big deal today in the world. I just don’t see it in our school particularly,” answered Wesley Kubasiak, a junior. He tells us he hasn't experienced bullying, but points to cyberbullying as a larger problem among students.
“A lot of people they talk the talk, they walk the walk on-line, but when you see them, they really don’t push it, they don’t extend that hand out,” described Kubasiak.
Freshman Shania Dean Smith avoids social media altogether. She said it helps avoid girl drama and bullying.
“For me, it’s a lot of drama, like a lot of arguments with girls, in my opinion,” said Smith. “It’s not really distracting for me because I stay focused and I know what I have to do become what I want to be.”
Some students told us they back off when bullied to avoid any other trouble for themselves. Others praised the charter school for supporting them when they report bullying.
When we asked students what adults could do to support them one student simply answered, “listen.”