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Unify Against Bullying to Award 22 Microgrants on Oct. 21

SPRINGFIELD — Unify Against Bullying announced it will award $21,000 in microgrants to 22 recipients at its combination grant awards ceremony and all-inclusive fashion show. The event is scheduled for Monday, Oct. 21, during National Bullying Prevention Month, at the Log Cabin in Holyoke.

“Unify is excited to be able to award this amount, which is our largest yet to date,” Executive Director Christine Maiwald said. “We had so many wonderful applications that it was a difficult task for our volunteer grant committee to choose. The committee chose a total of 21 anti-bullying initiatives that were in line with Unify’s mission: to end bullying through the celebration of true diversity.”

Here are some of the 22 grant recipients:

Once again this year, John Paul Mitchell Systems (JPMS) will donate $1,000 to a sixth-grade girl, Arianna Hopkins, who was bullied and decided she didn’t want anyone else to feel the way that she did, so she decided to do something about it. With the grant money, Hopkins will purchase art supplies and engage her peers to make handmade posters and then put them in elementary and middle schools in her community. She will write a script for her and a friend to present to her peers to raise awareness of the effects of bullying and let students know how to stop it. “I definitely choose Arianna to receive our grant because I am so impressed that this young lady wants to change the world,” said JPMS Chairman Michaeline DeJoria Heydari.

The Birchland Park School Student Council in East Longmeadow wants to inspire more young people to break out of their comfort zone and talk to kids they usually wouldn’t talk to. As the Student Council noted, “kids go through all kinds of trials on their own, but sometimes an act of kindness such as a smile or compliment can go a long way. We see the cliques in middle school, but being kind will take you far in life and sometimes can change a life.” The students want to use the grant for schoolwide activities, have a spirit week supporting anti-bullying, create morning announcements with insights on bullying, and make posters for the school that remind students to smile and compliment their peers.

Emily Herring, school counselor at Paul R. Baird Middle School in Ludlow, wants to focus on creating a positive, inclusive, and safe environment for the incoming sixth-grade class. Many students lack the skills needed to handle peer conflict, often resulting in increased anxiety, depression, bullying, school avoidance, and academic struggles. She will teach conflict resolution and a growth mindset, stressing coping skills as well as classroom-based social emotional skills. Herring will create an after-school club for students to meet new peers and provide leadership roles to create an inclusive environment within the school.

Eileen Cavanaugh from the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Holyoke will launch the Speak Up Campaign, inviting kids from 5 to 18 years old to create their own public-service announcements in the media room that will focus on bullying. They will then play on a loop on TVs throughout the club, be distributed to the Holyoke Public Schools leadership, and sent out via Constant Contact and other social-media outlets, thereby reaching thousands of youth.

Those who attend the all-inclusive fashion show on Oct. 21 will have an opportunity to meet all 22 grant recipients and talk with each of them about the work they are doing to combat the pervasive bullying issue. To purchase tickets, visit www.unifyagainstbullying.org and go to the events page and click on ‘tickets.’

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