CCA holds program to discuss bullying prevention with students in Philadelphia
The six-week program addresses topics such as relationship aggression and cyber bullying.
How can you prevent bullying if students can’t even identify it?
Nikita Robins Thompson is trying to address this issue. She’s a school counselor offering students support at CCA’s Family Service Center in Center City Philadelphia.
Since October is National Bullying Prevention month, Thompson decided to implement a program for students to learn how to identify bullying in their everyday lives. She plans to facilitate a conversation in small groups about how students treat each other.
At CCA, Thompson is in charge of programming at the Philadelphia center. These programs serve students outside of their online classrooms in everything from career development to social and emotional development.
CCA also provides a Student Assistance Program to help students facing a variety of issues. SAP is made up of administrators, teachers, counselors and outside professionals who are trained to help students who are experiencing non-academic barriers to learning, such as bullying.
- READ MORE: CCA provides safe haven for bullying victims
The goal of SAP is to identify students experiencing these barriers. Once issues have been identified, SAP refers the student for evaluation by linking families to resources in their community. The program also puts into place accommodations and support in the school environment to help them achieve academic success.
The bullying program in Philadelphia aims to identify some of the barriers students face. The six-week program at the Philadelphia center involves 14 girls and 14 boys to talk about topics like: relationship aggression, understanding your role as a bystander, friendship, leadership and cyber bullying.
Thompson is using these topics as a baseline to talk through these issues and educate students on how to navigate social situations responsibly. She hopes to use these discussions to also touch on subjects like self-esteem and self-awareness especially with the young women at CCA.
Thompson has a lot of experience running group sessions outside of CCA at group homes and a women’s prison. For more than 10 years, Thompson has conducted weekly discussion sessions, in a Delaware prison to talk about healthy parenting.
Thompson said she learned that when conducting discussion sessions, the most important task is “being relatable, being a people person and being approachable.” Thompson said she has brought this wisdom to her program at CCA.
You can tell how much Thompson cares about her students. Last year when a CCA student was going to college, Thompson said the student didn’t have the financial means for dorm supplies. Thompson decided to start a Facebook campaign to gather supplies like detergent and gift cards. She said CCA teachers and neighbors pitched in and they were able to set up the young woman’s dorm room at Delaware State University. This led to Thompson starting her nonprofit Trunks of Love, which offers needy students supplies to ease the transition to dorm life.
When it comes to the anti-bullying program at CCA, she said that they may cover topics that could be uncomfortable. She added that in the end, she reassured students that these talks are a safe space where communication and respect is key.
Thompson plans to have an open discussion with her students at the Philadelphia center. Even with her experience she said, “Any time I do these types of groups I come as a facilitator, but I don’t know it all. We can learn from each other.”
Thompson said that when it comes to bullying, we tend to think about the verbal and physical acts, but it often starts way before that with social isolation and divisiveness among students. Bullying can even consist of eye rolling, snickering and unnecessary tension between students or cliques.
She shared a story about two students who were having issues with each other when Thompson brought them into her office to talk. One student was angry because the other kept staring at her and giving her looks. Little did she know, the other student was simply admiring her sense of style.
“Sometimes kids don’t even know they’re being mean,” she said. “I even had to have a conversation with my own child about bullying.”
Thompson said that the wakeup call came when she saw her son’s text messages with his friend. Her son said that they call each other names when they are messing around, but Thompson said it can be a problem. Often students don’t speak up when they’re being hurt by their friends.
Thompson plans to address these social interactions in her discussions with students. It will be a safe space where students can talk through the ways that they may be bullying others or witnessing bullying. The goal is to stop normalizing the violence by talking about what role these students play.
She also discovered issues among the students when it comes to healthy relationships. Thompson said they need to have a discussion about trust as adolescents, so they know how to form healthy romantic relationships as adults.
Whether aggression is at home or in school, Thompson said her goal is “educating them in what that looks like.” She said that often, students who exhibit aggressive behavior tend to be unhappy and take it out on others.
“Unhappy people hurt people,” she said.
Bullying most often comes from a place of insecurity and she intends to address that during the sessions.
During the first week, Thompson said that the students were introduced to what the group was, what topics they would discuss, and overall group etiquette. Many of the kids were eager to begin.
Thompson said that the goal of these groups is to create a system of support and networking for these students. Her hope is that it translates beyond CCA.