All text by: Jen Cowart
July 1, 2010
This spring, 45 students from Hugh B. Bain Middle School went to the Third Eye conference, “Youth Lighting the Way to New Directions,” at the University of Rhode Island.
At the two-day conference, the students participated in workshops, conducting two of their own in front of the 500 or so other students from 50 other middle schools around the state.
According to Project Respect’s faculty advisor, Sheri Brown, the Bain students also performed skits for the other students, which conveyed messages promoting the theme of respect. The skits dealt with topics such as domestic violence and bullying, with the Bain “Knight Steppers” performing a dance routine that carried an anti-bullying message.
While the students were busy preparing for and participating in the conference, the group also earned three prestigious awards and citations, being named the Attorney General’s Middle School of the Year, receiving a citation from the Rhode Island House of Representatives as Middle School of the Year, Creating a Safer School Community, as well as a Senate Citation for being the Middle School Third Eye School of the Year.
“The whole idea behind Third Eye is kids being a third eye at the schools,” said Brown, noting that the students look for bullying and brainstorm ways to intervene, address and solve problems during their twice-weekly after school meetings.
“Sheri Brown has really come into her own with this,” added Bain Principal Tom Barbieri. “She’s become a leader in our school community, and she was named National School Advisor of the Year last year.”
At the Third Eye Conference, the students shared snippets of the work they do at Bain, including the bullying education, peer mentoring, proactive assemblies and community projects.
“The activities that the kids have done strengthened their leadership skills. Some have gotten more self-esteem and self-confidence. This will absolutely benefit them in high school,” said Brown.
She also stated that going to the Third Eye conference let the students truly understand some of the dangerous bullying types of situations going on in the community and the seriousness of them.
“Now they know how to address them,” she said.
Brown started Project Respect at Bain eight years ago. Since that time, it has tripled in size as more students have joined. Brown has had to start an application process for the program due to the amount of students who want to be involved.
“I really believe it’s had a positive impact on the school climate,” Brown said.
The 45 students meet every week for two hours. There’s a specific agenda at each meeting and the students work on team-building activities and plan assemblies and activities for the entire school community.
“In reality, kids aren’t going to listen to adults,” said Barbieri. “I talk to them every day in the dining room and they look like they are listening, but we all know that when kids talk they will listen to each other.”
The students do a great deal of brainstorming during their meeting times to think about the types of problems being faced on a daily basis at the school and within the community, even globally.
“Respect is the foundation of our school. Sheri’s award and the other awards say a lot for our building,” said Barbieri. “We know what’s important in life and that’s what has been holding our building together for the past 80 years. This is what will hold it together for the next 80 years. Nothing’s going to change that.”