NAPLES — At 10 years old, Samanatha Passafuime knows bullying is wrong.
“It’s sad to see people bullying and getting their anger out on other people,” she said.
Samantha, along with hundreds of her Vineyards Elementary schoolmates, took to the soccer field Friday at Vineyards Community Park for a March Against Bullying. During the event, teachers and students paraded around the field, all the while dancing and singing, to stand up against bullying at their school.
“Now is the time to talk about it before it’s too late,” said Robert DeSiano, vice president of the Parent Teacher Organization and founder of the March Against Bullying. His daughter, Julia, is a third grader at Vineyards, and based on his own past experience, he knew he wanted to ensure Julia and all students stood up against bullies.
“It’s something that is very personal for me,” he said. “I never put up for (bullying) as a kid, I always stuck up for others.”
The idea behind the march is to get children to adopt the mentality that bullying is not acceptable, DeSiano said. By teaching children to stand up against bullies during their elementary years, they’ll hopefully take the knowledge with them as they become young adults.
“Let’s be proactive now,” DeSiano said. “It’s important for parents to have the same attitude with their children, too.”
Throughout the past week, the children at Vineyards took part in skits, poetry readings and art work leading up to Friday’s march. Students also signed a pledge against bullying, and held hands with their classmates before the start of the walk to signify their support for one another.
In a recent push focused on ending bullying, Vineyards Principal Mary Smith has worked with the PTO and school counselors to make the adults and teachers more accesable to students, encourage the children to come talk if they’re aware of bullying or want to help a friend who is being bullied.
“I hope they took away that bullying will not be tolerated and that they can come and tell an adult,” Smith said.
Before the event, DeSiano spoke to the children, encouraging them to gives themselves a round of applause.
“Each and every one of you is special,” he told the school. “We’re celebrating your differences.”
While students marched around the field, teacher Lisa Newbrough encouraged the children, waiving pom poms in the air, a flurry of purple and yellow ribbons in her hair as she danced around and rallied the students.
“At this age, we can instill these values in them,” Newbrough said. “As they grow into adults, they’ll remember what they learned here.”