A new club at Sequoyah High School known as “The Preventers” has students speaking out against bullying and its harmful effects on teenagers.
The more than 25 students at the Tahlequah, Oklahoma school serve as mentors to their peers by helping squash incidents in their own hallways and speak out to younger students in other schools. They spoke to Woodall Elementary fifth and sixth-graders Wednesday, March 12 about how to handle bullying.
Cherokee Nation Behavioral Health trained the students on mental health first aid last summer, and each “preventer” is now a certified mental health first-aid responder. Behavioral Health performed a similar training with Sallisaw High School students in 2013.
“Being in The Preventers gives us a chance to give back to the community and help other students. We will hopefully open their eyes and show them that bullying is a really serious issue,” said Grant Neugin, a Sequoyah senior who joined. “It is important to reach students at a young age and show them that bullying isn’t good, it isn’t right, and it needs to be stopped.”
Last school year, the students were selected based on trustworthiness by the Sequoyah student body, and the group started meeting this school year.
“I cannot express how proud I am of these students for tackling such difficult issues,” club sponsor Rebecca Brant said. “They are role models for the younger students and support for their peers. These kids that are The Preventers have no idea the impact they have and the lives they are touching by speaking out.”
Sequoyah students have also visited Tenkiller Public Schools and Sequoyah’s seventh and eighth-grade classes. The Preventers plan to visit Maryetta School next. The group is also working with professional heavyweight boxer and Sequoyah High School graduate Wes Nofire on an anti-bullying and suicide prevention campaign.
Nofire hopes his status as a professional athlete who lost his mother to suicide will help boost the efforts to educate and bring awareness to depression and suicide prevention.
“Suicide has left a void in my family. My mother battled depression her entire life, and she could never out pray or out run it. I try to live a life that honors her memory, and I feel like this is something she would be proud of,” Nofire said. “I hope this program educates those who don’t experience bullying, or have suicidal thoughts or depression, and I hope it provides a shelter for those who do.”