Guest speaker teaches tools to fight online bullying

Woman stands in front of classroom

When Herkimer College student Emma Vanderwerken reached out to Kerry Reppel about giving an anti-bullying presentation to Herkimer junior high students, the timing couldn’t have been better.

Frankfort-Schuyler alumna and former Friends of Rachel Club member Vanderwerken contacted Reppel only days after Herkimer hosted the Sweethearts & Heroes presentation, and asked Reppel if she could come speak to FOR members at Herkimer to talk about how to prevent bullying.

“It was perfect,” Reppel said, “because we all want to keep this momentum going.”

Vanderwerken spoke to a group of seventh- through 10th-grade students about advocacy, and how to defuse situations when they witness someone being bullied. Students were also prompted to write down a strength, and share it with the group.

Reppel said Vanderwerken was impressed at how well-prepared the students were with strategies for handling bullying situations — thanks in part to the Sweethearts & Heroes program.

“I could see that they’re carrying over what they learned,” Reppel said. “They applied it to the situations she brought up.”

A student who attended Vanderwerken’s presentation said he appreciated her focus on how to handle bullying on social media specifically.

“She really helped the kids learn better ways to prevent bullying,” he explained.

Reppel said she and other teachers are continuing to brainstorm about other ways to carry anti-bullying messages forward with students throughout the rest of the school year, and for years to come.

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