Campus group aims to end bullying

One campus group will not allow bullying in schools by any stretch. Students Ready to Make Change, known as STRETCH, is an organization that educates students from kindergarten to high school about bullying.

“I know that their teachers are [teaching about bullying], their counselors are doing that, their administrators are doing that for them, but it’s a different voice coming from Bradley students,” Twila Lukowiak, a teacher education professor, said. “They don’t see Bradley students as an authoritative figure. It’s more like a big brother or big sister [or] like a role model for them.”

The organization began about three years ago and has grown to include about 25 Bradley student members from many majors. The members travel to local schools about seven times per semester and make several presentations at each school.

“We always make them very age appropriate, but generally, they all have the same type of feel to them,” Lukowiak said. “We are in contact with a lot of counselors and sometimes the counselor of the school will say, ‘OK, so we are having trouble with cyber bullying, could you focus on that?’ So, we like to tailor the presentation for the school.”

During the presentations, Bradley students interact with the children through games, videos and live music.

“I usually play a song by one of my favorite artists, Ben Howard, called ‘Keep Your Head Up,'” James Ghareeb, a senior international business and marketing double major, said. “After every [presentation], I ask them, ‘What are your takeaways from this song?’ Everyone’s takeaway is different, and that’s what I find interesting, and that’s the power of music.”

Lukowiak said many members of STRETCH have gone through some type of bullying.

“I went through a lot of that bullying when I was younger,” Ghareeb said. “I’ve seen family, friends and a lot of people get hurt from it, and just letting people know that it’s OK that it’s happened, that you’re not alone, and that there’s a way out … there’s always a brighter side of these situations.”

Ghareeb said STRETCH’s goal is to end bullying, which is a big task, but “little steps go a long way.”

“That’s all that matters, that you’re relating to these people, and that’s the biggest goal — seeing a smile on someone’s face that has been through something of that nature,” Ghareeb said.