COLUMBIANA — Area Girl Scouts had the opportunity to participate in a youth violence prevention program recently at the Columbiana Nazarene Church. Sgt. Wade Boley of the Columbiana Police Department led Circle of Friends exercises for the Start With Hello Project in which girls from different troops learned about each others’ similarities and differences, recognizing one another as individuals with their own personal stories, and seeing each other as a valuable human being.
According to a press release, the Circle of Friends exercise was one of a dozen activities Columbiana Girl Scout Troop 80191 leader Kathy Keaggy Brown organized for her 22 troop members and Girl Scouts from Troop 80777, also in Columbiana, and 80018 in Canfield. At the heart of the exercises, held during two intensive days, the girls took part in anti-bullying lessons tied to Girl Scouts of Ohio’s Heartland Peace it Together curriculum. They focused on courage, confidence, character, and making the world a better place by participating in various activities funded by a $100 Sandy Hook Promise mini grant.
“The Start With Hello Program focuses on the growing epidemic of social isolation in our society. Excessive feelings of isolation can be associated with violent and suicidal behavior, and it can be a factor in tragedies like Sandy Hook,” Keaggy Brown said in the release.
She said the sessions aimed to help the girls not only identify bullying, but to take action to prevent it.
“Our goal is to teach girls that when you see something wrong, say something to the bully, the target, a trusted adult. Don’t put yourself in danger, but do something, say something,” she said.
Another activity focused on self confidence.
“It’s about being confident. Everybody has something good they can do. I think that talking about our strengths gives us confidence to say ‘That’s not OK’ when something doesn’t feel right,” Keaggy Brown said.
While some children may feel comfortable pulling a peer away from a situation in which he or she is treated unkindly with an invitation to play or join them for lunch at a cafeteria table, others can take an equally significant role by engaging an adult, she explained.
“You should be nice to everyone, but you don’t have to be friends with everyone. If someone is making poor choices, tell a teacher. Get that person help,” Keaggy Brown told the girls.
Keaggy Brown is a Columbiana County Educational Service Center speech-language pathologist who works at McKinley Elementary School in Lisbon in addition to leading her troop.
Scout Cadette Brileigh Kocanjer said the exercises helped her make friends with someone new, while Junior Girl Scout Morgan Boley said she learned to be a lot more cautious online.
Brownie Regan Boley said she learned how to make friends with a girl at recess who sits alone.