TRINITY — When Jada Welch saw her second-grade brother being bullied at school, she became determined to do something about it.
"It makes him very sad. It makes him cry," said Jada, 10. "I try to help. I try to calm him down and talk to the bullies. I try to stop it."
Now Jada is committed to helping other kids who are mocked, humiliated and abused at school as a member of the Trinity Oaks Elementary Anti-Bullying Squad.
More than 20 students were handpicked from the Trinity Oaks Elementary student council to make up the squad, making its official debut this school year.
"We have to make sure children are aware of bullying, and that the kids know what it is so they can help themselves and others," said Allison Cohen, guidance counselor at Trinity Oaks. "Now is the time to teach them empathy and compassion, to teach them to be kind to others."
Each member of the Anti-Bullying Squad wears a T-shirt emblazoned with a logo that depicts a heart in an open hand, along with the words, "Our hands are kind, our words are helpful. Say NO to bullying." Every student who wears the shirt has been educated about what bullying is and how to stop it.
"I want to help others when they're being bullied," said Ashley Hoskins, a 10-year-old fifth-grader. "I would say, 'Do not hurt my friend's feelings. You wouldn't want your feelings hurt.' "
Through lessons administered by Cohen and guidance department assistant Shari Lambert, squad members have been advised about the various ways and means in which students are bullied and harassed by others.
"We have to show other kids, so they can be aware of the problem," said squad member Ashley Perfeito, a 10-year-old fifth-grader. "Bullying can happen anywhere, not just at school. It can happen on Facebook and on websites. And if we see one of our friends being bullied, we can't laugh along. We need to get involved and try to stop it if it's safe. And we need to tell teachers about the problem."
According to Lambert, the Trinity Oaks squad finds its origins in a district and schoolwide initiative to address the problem of bullying in Pasco schools.
"A year of planning has gone into this project," Lambert said. "Our students have heard anti-bullying lessons and have written essays and participated in interviews about the issue."
Aside from the squad, Cohen and Lambert regularly teach antibullying lessons to Trinity Oaks classes. The school's website offers an informational section that has resources and information regarding the issue.
On the district level, Pasco has implemented the Together We Stand initiative, which encourages active reporting of bullying incidents across the district. Visitors can click the Together We Stand banner on any Pasco school website to report bullying incidents.