This past March 11-15, Waukesha North hosted Empowerment Week: End Harassment, a week full of activities, seminars, workshops, and speakers targeted at bringing awareness and an end to bullying. The weeklong program also taught techniques to students and teachers aimed at empowering victims and how to address instances of harassment. Headed by Greta Voit, a physics teacher at Waukesha North, the high school’s GSA teamed up with several student clubs such as Best Buddies, DECA, and Key Club to make Empowerment Week a remarkable success.
Several weeks before Empowerment Week began, Greta and her collaborative team of students and faculty held several different activities and trainings to prepare and ensure the week would have as much support and participation as possible. The students and staff filled out a bully/harassment climate survey to get a sense of the extent and nature of bullying within Waukesha North High School. The students also led a 30-minute long staff training during a staff meeting. During the training, students discussed their personal experiences with bullying and presented climate survey data. Students also asked teachers to put up “Safe Zone” signs, brainstorm ideas on how to improve the school’s climate, and incorporate bullying/empowerment lessons into their classroom instructions during Empowerment Week.
In the week leading up to Empowerment Week, the students and staff sought to promote awareness and increase participation within the student body at Waukesha North for the upcoming weeks’ activities, trainings, seminars, and workshops. Empowerment and “Do you see what I see?” posters hung throughout the hallways, and students responded to prompts in English classes that specifically addressed their personal experiences with bullying. These students’ stories were then used for the Words Hurt Wall that hung in the hallway the following week. Social media, press releases and a notification from the principal sent to parents and families about the upcoming Empowerment Week all built support and awareness leading up to the weeks’ activities and events.
Empowerment Week finally arrived on March 11. Throughout the week students signed the “Empowerment Pledge” as well as the “Purple Peace Palace” Banner, promising to stand up against bullying and harassment in Waukesha North. Students also could purchase a “Purple Peace Palace” wristband for only $1 that they would wear during the Purple Peace Walk that Friday. By the end of the week, the 500 wristbands were completely sold out, and all profits went to the “Sparky Fund: Helping Northstar Families in Need.”
On Monday, the Words Hurt Wall went on display in the hallways, decorated with stories shared from students’ prompt answers. On Tuesday, the movie “Bully” was shown in the school’s auditorium, with a debriefing session held afterward with questions and answers regarding the film and the audience’s reactions. Local Officer Trussoni also presented a Cyberbullying Parent Seminar, aimed at providing parents with resources and information on how to identify, address, and prevent cyberbullying.
A “Painting Hope” assembly was held for the school on Wednesday, after which the Words Hurt Wall transformed into a Words Heal Wall, with students altering the stories to reflect methods used to empower victims of bullying. On Thursday, a counselor at Waukesha North led a Student Brown Bag Lunch Seminar, which discussed school cultures, Empowerment Week experiences, and offered a “Cross the Line” activity for students.
Finally, Friday was Purple Peace Day. All students worse purple to demonstrate their support for Empowerment Week. During 3rd period, students who purchased the purple peace wristband had the opportunity to participate in the Purple Peace Walk around the school, followed by a “Cross the Line” activity in the gym.
Overall, the week was a phenomenal success. The students and staff leading the activities and seminars felt enormous support from the school and community, and Greta hopes Waukesha North’s experience will encourage other schools to hold similar awareness weeks at their own schools. For a summary of the week’s events and activities, check out a video of various images from Empowerment Week here.