A senior project to end bullying in school: The Big Talk

Senior Alexis McGurn ’16 held The Big Talk with our seventh-grade students during a sleepover to talk about the topic of bullying.

Alexis tied her senior project into our annual seventh-grade girls sleepover hosted by Val Ortiz, middle school guidance counselor. For the first time, Alexis extended the sleepover to our seventh-grade boys. 

This two-fold project allowed our girls to have a night of fun, food, and laughter followed by conversations about self body image. Our boys, who gathered on different day for their sleepover, took to the fields for outdoor activities and to talk about bullying in school.

“This program has only been for girls, and I thought it was a good idea to bring the whole grade together to become more cohesive. I think the boys get ignored in this situation, and they also experience bullying and have self confidence issues,” said Alexis. “Toward the end of last year when Ty Field-Smalley’s dad [Kirk Smalley] came to our school, I wanted to take on the challenge of making the Stand for the Silent club at [Collegiate] and to make it an official chapter.”

Nearly 1 in 3 students report being bullied during the school year according to the National Center for Educational Statistics.

Ty Field-Smalley was an 11-year-old boy who took his own life after being suspended from school for retaliating against a student who had bullied him for more than two years.

“The Ty Smalley story really resonated with me and it was important when it came to the whole bullying situation,” Alexis said. “When I was younger, I had bad teeth, and I really struggled with self image issues. It turned into bullying with kids telling me I was different,and it was really something that I struggled with at the time,” she continued. “It forced me to take a step back and to look at what I liked about myself. I eventually overcame it when I got braces and my teeth started to get better. I’ve also seen some of my friends go through similar things.”

Alexis met with each group of students before the sleepovers to get to know them and for the students to become more comfortable with her, which made way for the activities that took place at the sleepover.

“During the sleepover for the girls, we held an icebreaker game, played around and listened to music before we had The Big Talk.”

The Big Talk was a PowerPoint presentation that highlighted campaign ads on self image which led to one-on-one talks with Ortiz and Alexis about self body image, puberty and statistics on body mass and height.

“We also talked about some of the relational aggression between girls,” said Ortiz. “Particularly, over the course of the year, our advisory program circles back to relationship dynamics and understanding what is mean and what is teasing. We hit that [topic] about three times a quarter.”

Ortiz uses the acronym T.K.N. which translates into is it true, is it kind, and is it necessary.

“A lot of the kids are impulsive and they don’t understand that if I have a relationship with you that we can tease one another, but if you don’t have that dynamic with someone it can be perceived as mean or bullying.”

Our students received The Big Talk extremely well and were excited to talk about it.

“I liked it a lot. You got to hang out with people that you wouldn’t normally hang out with,” said Ellie Robertson '21. “And the video showed you that you see yourself differently than what others see, like what you may not like about yourself others don’t even notice.”

“I thought it was cool,” said Josh Stubbs-Yates '21. “We played manhunt and the video displayed how others see you. One person described themselves then someone else would [describe them] and what they saw where completely different.”

Ortiz hopes to continue the partnership between the seventh-grade sleepover and a senior project; she has several juniors which are interested in continuing to tackle the topic of bullying.