Youth conference tackles bullying

Attendees at a bullying camp, held July 17 at New Life Church in Princeton, view a movie on bullying.

Forty youth, ages 10-18, from the Princeton, Milaca, Zimmerman area, attended a free youth conference primarily on bullying, with some discussion on safe dating, July 17, at New Life Church in Princeton.

The conference was organized by the Milaca-based Pearl Crisis Center and all the costs covered by the Mystic Riders Snowmobile Club. The conference included a movie on the subject and small group sessions. Most attendees were able to pick out two 45-minute group sessions to be in, the exception being the attendees in the commercial-making session as that lasted 1 1/2 hours.

Session activities included making masks to describe a person’s feelings about being a victim of bullying, one brought out the fact that labels are for jars and not people, and there was a role-playing group in which half played the part of bullies and the rest were the victims.

The idea of the conference, said Pearl Crisis Center staff member Tearza Jones, is to raise awareness about bullying and how there are various participants. Often there is not just the bully and the victim, but also bystanders who do nothing about it, Jones said.

Among the tips given at the conference were what to do if bullied, who is safe to talk to about a bully situation, identifying bullies and victims, and examining why some people bully.

Three of the speakers were youth who had been bullied – Tess Van De Veer, Tony Van’t Hof, and Rylee Johnson. Van De Veer and Van’t Hof gave a few comments/recommendations regarding bullying for this story.

“Not to do it,” is what Van’t Hof suggested as far as bullying. “It’s not funny. Tell someone (about it). Don’t keep it bottled up.” Van’t Hof, 13, said he was bullied all his school years except for in kindergarten.

Van’t Hof said he is finding some help and improvement in his situation of being a victim of bullying.

“Be careful of what you say because you don’t exactly know how it will affect somebody,” Van De Veer said. Also, find a way to talk through the situation and pursue all options, Van De Veer said, adding that some go to suicide as a way out, “and that’s not worth it.”