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West Orange Times & Observer Monday, May 15, 2017 3 years ago

On a mission to end bullying

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Four women join forces to create Project 4:29 to end bullying in schools
by: Brittany Gaines Reporter

After witnessing bullying one too many times, four women from Winter Garden have decided to band together to tackle the problem.

They created their anti-bullying group - Project 4:29 - last month and are already working with Sunridge Elementary School to test their new program.

“We decided that now was the time to make a stand,” said Meredith Rosser, one of the founders of the group. “We’re going to be the change.”

The idea for the group started last month when Rosser witnessed a bullying incident on the West Orange Trail and tried to intervene. Frustrated by the incident, Rosser took her concerns and opinions to Facebook, where she met fellow moms who were also fed up with bullying.

Through conversations, Rosser learned her children weren’t the only ones who had been subject to bullying in the past. In fact, all four founders of Project 4:29 had seen their children or family members endure bullying.

“It’s like, ‘OK we’re done,’” said founder Cheryl Collison. “Something needs to change.”

In four weeks, the four women have gone from a Facebook chat to trying to implement change in schools.

“Everything has fallen into place so quickly,” said Jenelle Schmidli, one of the founders of the group. “It’s a movement, and it’s growing so fast. It’s amazing.”

The women named their group after Ephesians 4:29, a Bible verse about using positive and kind words to encourage others. 

Although the group is only a few weeks old, it already has created a code of conduct, which provides the students with guidelines to promote being kind to one another and prevent bullying.

“We want them to be leaders in their own school,” Rosser said about students who will participate in the program.

The group has created a summer challenge for students, which involves doing acts of kindness during the summer months and posting their kindness acts to social media. Next year, the group hopes to implement an ambassador program in which student leaders from each grade level help promote bullying awareness.

“We want to give the power back to the students because students listen to students,” Rosser said. “Through the code, the kids have a voice.”

By the end of next year, Project 4:29 hopes to have their programs and code of conduct implemented in three different schools in West Orange county. So far, Sunridge Elementary School and Sunridge Middle School have agreed to participate in the program. Project 4:29 is also in talks with Lake County schools with hopes to bring their program into Clermont. 

Within five years, Project 4:29 aims to have their code of conduct implemented with Orange County Public Schools.

“It’s about positive reinforcement,” Rosser said. “We want to put the entire town of Winter Garden on the map of the nation as zero tolerance for bullying.”

 

Contact Brittany Gaines at [email protected].

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