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Students train to be school ambassadors

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by Krystal Paco

Guam - Bullying may not always be visible to teachers and school staff, but students from all over the island are learning to be Safe School Ambassadors in order to stop bullying amongst their peers. Staring, name calling, and pushing and shoving are just some types of bullying John F. Kennedy High School senior Jesse Balatico sees on his Upper Tumon campus.

He told KUAM News, "Bad looks, verbal abuse, picking on other people because they're bigger than the other person - there's a lot of types of bullying at school."  Balatico is one of dozens participating in this week's Safe School Ambassadors Training, a bullying and violence prevention program used in over a thousand schools nationwide and for the first year ever, being implemented on Guam.

According to the Judiciary of Guam's Safe and Drug Free Schools Project Manager Joleen Respicio, the program works by enabling students to stop the bullying, especially at secondary schools. "The idea of it is that the discipline rates dramatically decrease as a result of this being implemented at the schools," she said. "Who better to influence amongst their peers than students themselves?"

Balatico says it's important to empower students with this training because bullying may not always be visible to teachers. "If you're a teacher of course the students are going to try and hide it from you, so that if you're bullying and a teacher walks by you're going to be like, 'This is my friend, I'm not trying to bully him'. But when students are around, nobody cares because a student's not going to stop you so of course you're going to want to bully that person," he stated.

JFK senior Drake Quinata says there are risks with being ambassadors such as being called a snitch by classmates - but it's better than being a bystander. "If there's a person bullying, the best thing to do is talk to both. See what that guy's problem is and what the other guy's problem is and try to resolve the conflict. 1209 so it won't be anything like escalate into a fight or abusing or names or anything, etc." he said.

Statistics show that close to 50 percent of students don't report bullying or cyberbullying. Locally, Respicio says we cannot collect data on the issue until we further define what bullying is to the community. "We need to educate the community on what bullying is what the face of bullying is, what happens what we need to do, who's all involved. So we can all make sure when we're measuring it we're all working off a basic understanding of what bullying is," she said.

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