One Copperas Cove teenager was bullied in junior high, and the bullying intensified over the next three years. Last week, she returned to her former school to put the negative experience behind her and turn it into something positive.
Chevonne Charmant, 16, kicked off Operation Beauty, an anti-bullying program, at S.C. Lee Junior High, the school where Charmant said she experienced intense bullying. The program operates under the Boys & Girls Club after-school program.
“I learned that I had to build my own self-confidence. I had to realize that I am pretty, too, even without a weave or skinny jeans,” Charmant said. “I was bullied because I had braids and clothing that were not the in thing.”
Charmant polled the girls sitting around her in the S.C. Lee cafeteria and asked how many of them thought they were pretty. None of the girls raised their hands and some said they were ugly.
“It really got to me that they already had a perceived image of themselves that was negative,” Charmant said. “And, it brought back a lot of memories for me.”
She asked the girls, ages 12 and 13, to list qualities about themselves that are positive, and they made Operation Beauty survival bracelets.
It took Charmant three years to get her program in place; 15 girls gather each week.
“I get bullied a lot and picked on. I try to stand up, but I can’t. (The bullies) are too tough for me,” said Julia Lawson, 13, who said she is learning how to do stand up through Operation Beauty.
“If I want to punch someone for being mean to me, I look at my bracelet and take a deep breath. Then, I go to the counselor’s office or talk to someone in the club.”
Dianna Alvarez, 12, said she has been bullied for as long as she can remember because she is a quiet person.
“People call me stupid because I never raise my hand for anything. I would never bully anyone because it’s not funny.”
Destiny Siguenza, the Boys & Girls Club adviser at S.C. Lee, said Charmant’s program is effective.
“We build close relationships and hear how they respond to things,” she said. “We build trust and have support between each other. Chevonne has great ideas to set the girls up for future success.”
Zero tolerance of bullies
The Copperas Cove school district has a zero tolerance policy on bullying, said Deputy Superintendent Rick Kirkpatrick.
“Students who are afraid to reach out ... that is what worries me the most,” Kirkpatrick said. “With online media, bullying has increased because there is anonymity. It’s not face-to-face, and the students cannot see how much they are hurting someone else when they make a post (on a social media page).”
Kirkpatrick urged students to report bullying to a teacher or adult they trust. Students also can report anonymously through online messaging on the high school and junior high school websites.
Cove ISD instituted a new consistent and comprehensive bullying investigation procedure this year at all campuses, Kirkpatrick said.
“When we receive a report, we investigate it to find out exactly what has been done and know what’s occurred. But, we have to know about it in order to do something about it.”