Fall in Iowa brings with it crisp morning air, warm autumn colors and of course the first day of school. But for many students, apprehensions about returning to school extend far beyond the expected first day jitters.
“Bullying statistics released in 2010 indicate that about 160,000 children miss school every day out of fear of being bullied,” says Resident Services Manager, Shelly Voss. “The same report states that more than 280,000 students are attacked in high schools each month.”
Perhaps even more disturbingly is a new study by the Yale School of Medicine that found not only a strong connection between bullying and suicide, but also revealed that suicide rates among adolescents have grown more than 50 percent in the past 30 years. When young lives are literally at stake because of the bullying epidemic in our schools today, it’s clear that something has to be done.
Enter the Peace Pals of Sherwood Place Apartments.
“The Peace Pals is an anti-bullying program that celebrates the power of peers,” says Voss. “They are dedicated to promoting Mercy Housing’s core values of Respect, Justice and Mercy through peer education and advocacy.”
The Peace Pals program has been quite popular throughout many Mercy Housing properties in Colorado and Nebraska, and this summer, Voss welcomed Sherwood Place’s first Peace Pal representatives in Iowa. Six youngsters from the Mercy Housing property in Council Bluffs completed the program and are ready to be peer advocates by adhering to the four anti-bullying Peace Pal rules:
- We will not bully others,
- We will try to help others who are bullied,
- We will make a point to include others who are left out and
- When we know somebody is being bullied, we will tell an adult.
Graduates of the Peace Pal program develop skills and techniques for dealing with bullying, demonstrate their ability to recognize and respond to bullying behavior and upon completion of the program (or “graduation”) are awarded a certificate acknowledging them as a full-fledged Peace Pal.
“The Peace Pals are leaders in their schools and communities,” says Voss. “We’ve seen great success among program participants in Colorado and Nebraska and I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to expand the program to Iowa through Sherwood Place. I’m very, very proud of our graduates.”