West Jefferson Hills School District students learn it just takes 'One'

| Wednesday, March 6, 2013, 9:02 p.m.

One school district has united through reading to teach students the importance of standing up to their peers and stopping bullying in their classrooms, hallways and buildings.

Students, teachers and parents in the West Jefferson Hills School District banded together on Feb. 26 for “One District, One Book, One Message,” where they shared with youngsters at McClellan and Jefferson elementaries how to be the one person that helps stop bullying in their school.

“It only takes one person to stand up for someone and make the bullying stop,” said McClellan Elementary student Jahnavi Patel, 10.

Forty-five students from Thomas Jefferson High School — representing the Interact Club, 10th-grade honors English and high school gifted students — visited the two elementary schools with prepared lesson plans and read to their younger peers from the book, “ONE,” by Kathryn Otoshi. The book uses colors and numbers to teach students the anti-bullying message.

The program was a part of the district's “Read Across America” program in celebration of Dr. Seuss' birthday. It also tied in with the district's bullying prevention campaign that kicked off in January with the adoption of the Olweus program and united students from all grade levels.

“We're trying to teach them the concept — that it only takes one person to change things for the better,” said Thomas Jefferson High School freshman Danielle Pinneri, 15. “We know what it's like to be in their place.”

The high school students used examples that the youngsters would understand, like colors and shapes, to get their message across. They also shared their thoughts on the matter.

“There's bullying everywhere. You're always going to have bullying, no matter where you are,” said Thomas Jefferson sophomore Olivia Airhart, 15. “You just have to trust yourself and be who you are.”

Hearing this message from older students made it more affective, teachers said.

“They look up to these kids. They're thinking, ‘When I'm in high school, I might be able to do this,'” kindergarten teacher Melissa Wahl said.

The McClellan PTA purchased 17 copies of the book “One” so that each classroom could have its own. The author autographed each copy and sent a letter to the school about the program.

“Sometimes its about repetition,” said Jessica Lutheran, McClellan PTA “Read Across America” committee chair. “It teaches the kids that it's not just something that lives in the hallways and classes within their school. This is a culture that is everywhere.”

McClellan students quickly picked up on the lesson.

“When you're in a bullying situation, most people feel afraid to be that one person to stick up for the person that's being bullied,” said second-grader Che Day, 8. “It taught us that one person can change a lot of people.”

Stephanie Hacke is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5818 or shacke@tribweb.com.

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