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FHS Peers for Peers wants to stop the cycle of bullying

Farmington High School Peers for Peers leaders came up with the idea for an assembly to combat bullying in the school. The assembly was presented to the freshman class last week. Students who organized the event include Jesse Golnick, Holly Loberg, Ryan Lawrence, Eric Revis and Taylor Murphy.

No one really understands how much being bullied hurts, how much it changes a child or cuts into a teen's soul. No one, except those who have lived the experience.

Farmington High School seniors Holly Loberg and Eric Revis know what bullying can do. That's why they were at the center of a Peers for Peers program Feb. 15 that addressed bullying and stereotyping. While the program was less than an hour long, they hope the lessons they tried to teach the freshman class will last a lifetime.

"We have a great new group of student leaders in Peers for Peers, and they're really passionate about it," said advisor and school counselor Jerry Pfau.

Loberg and Revis emceed the program, each sharing their own story. Revis moved to Farmington in sixth grade, a time when kids have already developed friendships and a new kid doesn't always fit in. He was picked on through the end of elementary school and into middle school. It was a difficult time for him, but through it, he's learned some pretty important lessons.

As part of the first freshman class at the high school in 2009, Loberg endured a life-threatening year of stereotyping, name-calling and people spreading rumors about her. In her freshmen year, Loberg said, she wore lots of makeup and, because she's petite, high heels and skirts often. Older kids called her things like "slut" and "whore," and spread rumors that she was "easy." Nothing could have been further from the truth, because she was not promiscuous at all.

The pressure and belittling took such a toll she tried to kill herself. Thankfully, she says now, she didn't succeed.

That's why Peers for Peers decided to share these personal messages with the freshmen. The hope is that, as this class moves forward through high school, the Class of 2016 will set the example of tolerance and acceptance, instead of falling into the traits of bullying or picking on younger students.

"There's a huge difference between a movie portrayal about somebody being bullied in high school and how it really is. It's not realistic at all. That's why we wanted to talk to the younger kids, to tell them to be nice. All it takes is one person. One person to be nice, one person to give a compliment," Revis said.

Pfau is impressed with the determination this year's Peers for Peers students have for addressing bullying. In fact, he said, he'd tried earlier to move the group to tackle another area of leadership, but the students said they still had work they wanted to do on bullying, and addressing it not only at the high school, but to perhaps take the message into the middle schools, as well.

"It's what the kids wanted to do, and so I said, 'go for it,'" Pfau said.

As part of their program, the Peers for Peers students invited Mrs. Lakeville, Latisha Moening, to speak about bullying. Moening is vying for Mrs. Minnesota, and her platform for change is based on combatting bullying in the schools.

The memories of being bullied never really go away, but they change a person. That's one thing Revis and Loberg know now. At the time, they both admit, it was hard to see how anything good could have come out of being picked on or called names, but now they know they're stronger for it.

"For me, my freshman year was my running point," Loberg said. "That was a bad way to start high school, but I made it. I worked hard. I'm a 4.0 student and I made new friends. I eventually made it."

Being bullied also builds compassion, understanding and acceptance in its victims, Loberg said. She's still in high school, and she sometimes hears classmates talking about other students, passing judgments.

"People were judging me before they knew me. I will never do that," she said. "If somebody tries to get me to say something, I'm like, 'I don't know her well enough. You can't judge a person just by the way they look.'"

Student director for the Peers for Peers program was Taylor Murphy. Jesse Golnick was the music director and Ryan Lawrence was the student technical advisor.

Michelle Leonard

Michelle Leonard joined the Woodbury Bulletin staff in November, 2014, after 14 years covering news for the Bulletin's sister publication, the Farmington Rosemount Independent Town Pages.  Michelle earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communications: News-Editorial from Mankato State University in 1991. She is an active member of the American Legion Auxiliary Clifford Larson Unit 189 of Farmington, and served as the 2014-15 Third District President to the American Legion Auxiliary Department of Minnesota. Michelle is also the volunteer coordinator for the Minnesota Newspaper Museum which is open annually during the Minnesota State Fair. She has earned Minnesota Newspaper Association awards in Investigative Reporting, Local News Coverage, Feature Photography and Column Writing. 

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