TWENTY high-school age students are working to make a difference at Hannibal High School through a community program that has seen its participation double in just its second year.
Teens in Motion focuses on preparing at-risk high school students for success after graduation. Work readiness, career exploration, and exposure to continuing education opportunities are all part of the program.
It started last year as an extension of the successful Kids in Motion program, which was launched in Hannibal and surrounding Missouri communities in 1996 by law enforcement officials, and civic and business leaders to teach youths ages 12 to 15 the value of work, and the value of community and their own futures.
A primary initiative for Teens in Motion, which is offered through the Douglass Community Center and had 10 participants in its first year, will be combating bullying. Despite increased public awareness, bullying remains a serious problem in American schools.
DoSomething.org, a global nonprofit organization founded in 1993 with the goal of motivating young people to make positive change on a variety of issues, offers some sobering statistics on bullying in school.
The organization reports that more than 3.2 million students are bullying victims each year, with 17 percent of American students report being bullied at least two or three times a month.
Moreover, about 160,000 teens skip school each day to avoid confrontations, and 1 in 10 students drop out of school because of repeated bullying.
The National Center for Education Statistics offers supporting evidence. A report issued last year shows that about 21 percent of students ages 12 to 18 reported being bullied at school in 2015.
Being made fun of, called names or insulted were cited as the most prevalent forms of bullying. They were closely followed by being the subject of rumors; being pushed, shoved, tripped or spit on; and purposely being excluded from activities.
"One of the things we want to do is the ‘No Child Eats Alone' program," Teens in Motion program director Amy Vaughn told The Herald-Whig. "If you see somebody sitting alone during lunch, strike up a conversation with them and befriend them. You never know what people are going through, and just a smile can really help."
Teens in Motion already has made significant strides during its short time of existence, and its focus on curbing bullying in schools is commendable and should serve as a valuable life lesson for all involved.