||Students at Festus High School pair off to practice active listening skills, an essential part of being a Transformer.
Every day, kids experience bullying – that’s why the Girl Scouts of Eastern Missouri joined with local schools to educate kids on how to intervene. Transform UR Future (TUF), equips students with tools so they can be more than just a bystander and it’s working at one Jefferson County high school.
TUF expands upon Girl Scouts’ Project Anti-Violence Education Program (PAVE) with a focus on bullying prevention and intervention. PAVE is a program designed to educate, empower and assist young people, K-12, in understanding and dealing with aggression and violence; to teach healthy relationship skills and help young people develop into strong and confident leaders.
“This is the kind of program that helps kids deal with some of the worst things that can happen to them in school and in life – being bullied,” said Bonnie Barczykowski, CEO, Girl Scouts of Eastern Missouri.
A prime example is Festus High School. There, Girl Scout Outreach Program Managers Kelsey Horne, Libby Kindle and Jillian Richardson led a group of 25 Transformers through the PAVE program. They discussed verbal and silent communication skills, how to offer praise to acknowledge and reinforce what children discuss during lessons, how use personal stories to engage students during discussions and more.
TUF focuses on a trio of schools within a district--a high school combined with an elementary and a middle school. The schools work together to implement PAVE and other Girl Scout anti-bullying programs.
A key TUF component is the Transformer. Transformers are high school aged female and male students who learn the PAVE curriculum, classroom management and presentation techniques to prepare them to deliver three PAVE sessions to elementary school students. As Transformers, students will also receive three to four leadership skill-building sessions, fulfill volunteer or service hours and will be eligible for college scholarships. Transformers act as peer mentors to the younger students, helping to transform their attitudes about violence and bullying.
Lindsay Burch and Taylor Noll, two new Transformers, explained why they joined.
“I wanted to reach out to the younger grades so they feel comfortable talking about bullying and so they have someone to communicate with,” Burch said.
“I know people who have been bullied,” Noll said. “I wanted to hear about TUF and see what it is all about.”
Before lunch, Horne, Kindle and Richardson asked the students to pair off and answer one of two questions to practice active listening skills. The pairs had to note how each partner responded, both verbally and non-verbally.
Examples of PAVE topics include – bullying, cyberbullying, Internet safety, conflict resolution, peer pressure, inclusion, diversity and healthy relationships.
Program funding comes from the generosity of our community partners. It is important for Girl Scouts to raise money so programs like PAVE can be offered to schools and organizations at no cost.
Earlier this month, Festus High students led their first PAVE sessions at Festus Elementary School. They worked with kindergarten through third-grade students on conflict resolution. Horne said the younger students were prepared, listened well and were excited to participate.
The high school Transformers took the initiative in the classrooms, creating a game out of “Stop, Say, Listen and Think,” one of the conflict resolution activities.
“It’s Stop the conflict, Say how you feel, Listen to the other person and Think about a solution,” Horne explained. Early reports from the elementary school counselor indicate the game has started to solidify the concepts in students’ minds.
On May 8, Girl Scouts will host a PAVE Rally in downtown St. Louis. This event focuses on the importance of bullying prevention efforts in schools, communities and homes. In previous years, the event drew nearly 5,000 attendees, including elected officials. This year, TUF students will take part in the planning and implementation of this community event. An additional PAVE Rally will be held in Hannibal on May 1 in conjunction with TUF schools in that community.
Other parts of PAVE include Be a Friend First (BFF), an eight-week program where smaller groups of girls in grades four through eight focus on bullying behavior and relational aggression between girls. BFF shows girls how to build and maintain healthy friendships during the sometimes difficult middle school years.
Ninety-seven percent of teachers in PAVE report that students follow classroom rules better and 98 percent report students have better control of their tempers in class.
“We are always striving to make sure TUF students are in the same three classrooms on each visit, for consistency and to give the kids familiar faces,” said Horne.
PAVE launched in 2000 as a pilot project in Girl Scout councils nationwide as part of a National Institute of Justice grant. Since its inception, Girl Scouts has served more than 300,000 young people through PAVE programs in eastern Missouri.