Martial Arts Champ Fights Back Against Bullying
Students’ Stories Bolster ‘Enough is Enough’ Campaignby Steve Vedder
Olivia Allen believes there's nothing more valuable than firsthand knowledge.
So when the president of the Kenowa Hills anti-bullying club, Knights Lights, listened to Mariah Moore speak about her experiences of being bullied in high school, Olivia didn't want to miss a word.
"It's how she interacts," Olivia said of Moore, a world-class martial arts champion who spoke to the club of the issues she had to endure as a teenager. "She can relate to us. She grew up fighting bullying so she can communicate with us."
Moore recently interacted with more than 50 Kenowa Hills students by producing anti-bullying photo shoots, videos, presentations and discussions. Producers used their stories to illustrate her ongoing "Enough is Enough" campaign.
Moore, a 20-time world martial arts champion turned motivational speaker, is no stranger to bullying. She said she was the subject of harassment, intimidation and torment at Lowell High School. Now she travels the country speaking out on the evils of bullying and trying to help students band together to fight it.
The session was part of the school's Anti-Bullying Week. Now in its sixth year, the club's goals include supporting students who've been subjected to bullying, hate speech and indifference, said counsler Jeff Poelstra. Club members frequently attend youth summits and volunteer at after-school and weekend projects.
Poelstra said getting Moore, with her experience as a motivational speaker and experience of bullying, was a coup. The 23-year-old Moore, making her second appearance in four years at the school, is young enough to relate well to high school students.
One of the things the students hear from Moore, Poelstra said, is the need to become involved. Sitting on the sidelines is no solution, he said.
"What differentiates our job is action," Poelstra said. "Our kids are always stepping up when they see things that need to be done. They've attached themselves quite closely with her because she can relate to them with her stories of being harassed and bullied in school."
Getting Better, but Plenty to Do
Olivia said the work of people such as Moore is crucial because, while schools have made progress in bringing attention to and slowing down bullying, there is much work yet to do. Too many schools are riddled with cliques that don't understand -- or even care -- about bullying, she said.
"It's gotten better here. I think everyone feels like they have a place here," she said. "But a lot of schools portray they're doing things, but I don't know if they're taking this as seriously as they should."
Under Kenowa Hills policy, Poelstra said, students are encouraged to report harassment or bullying to a school employee or trusted adult. Administrators investigate each incident, with consequences ranging from intervention for both parties to suspension. Victims also receive counseling support.
Moore said the focus of her "Enough is Enough" campaign, founded in 2011, is to bring awareness to the problem. A motivational speaker since age 12, Moore said she was punched, kicked and pushed aside in high school. She said students need to rise above such behavior.
"We want people to walk away, a be a bigger person," she said.
In a 2015 study, 18.8 per cent of Michigan high school students were cyberbullied while 25.6 percent said they were bullied on school property, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Moore said those numbers include students of virtually every type.
"It isn't just the fat kid or the nerd, it's everywhere and happens to anyone," she said.
Moore said youngsters have to understand the hurtful implications of their actions toward classmates. She said youngsters who've been subjected to bullying should contact teachers or counselors. in addition to discussing the problem with parents.
"It's up to the individual," she said. "Kids like these are going through things that are impactful. They know they can be more."