comments

Granite Bay walkathon raises awareness on teen bullying

Event organized in response to recent suicides
By: Sena Christian, The Press Tribune
-A +A

EDITOR'S NOTE: Due to rain expected Saturday, Granite Bay High School's March to Make a Difference walkathon has been rescheduled to Saturday, April 14.

----------

Tragedy can tear a community apart, but a Granite Bay High School club is using heartache to bring people together instead.

Angels and Doves, a student-run group that promotes anti-bullying messages, has organized a walkathon to lift the community’s spirit in response to two suicides in the past year.

The March to Make a Difference aims to raise awareness about issues faced by teenagers and includes a three-mile walk on campus followed by a barbecue and social gathering on Saturday, April 14. The event is sponsored by a grant from the Granite Bay Boosters.

“We want to create awareness about teen issues going on today and we want to do it in a positive way,” said senior Andrea Barrett, who founded Angels and Doves.

They’re walking in solidarity to show that every person matters and support exists to help someone out of a hopeless situation.

“I think the community really needs this right now,” Barrett said.

The event is being held partly in response to the suicides of two former Granite Bay High School students this last year. One of those was Jeffrey Fehr, who hanged himself on New Year’s Day at 18 years old. He graduated in 2011 and had been a member of the school’s cheer squad.

Fehr was openly gay and some believe he may have dealt with bullying at school. Nine out of 10 lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) students experience harassment at school, according to the Gay Lesbian and Straight Education Network National School Climate Survey in 2009.

Lesbian, gay and bisexual youth are up to four times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers, according to the Trevor Project, a national organization that provides crisis intervention and suicide prevention services for LGBT youth.

Barrett said she still sees bullying among her peers, especially cyber-bullying. She was bullied when she was younger and says it took a toll on all aspects of her life, including her ability to make friends.

“I don’t want anyone else to experience what I went through,” she said. “Someone being bullied needs to be able to say something instead of keeping it to (themselves).”

She encourages adults to talk to their children about bullying — she said parents don’t often realize their own child may be the one bullying someone else.

Granite Bay High School Peer Helping teacher Katrina Wachs said the walkathon will help teens feel empowered to do something if they witness bullying.

“We need to educate people about what that looks like and what it is,” Wachs said. “It’s not always the kid who’s thrown down and (has their) lunch money taken.”

The walkathon will have representatives from community organizations that provide services to families dealing with crisis, said organizer Joanna Jullien.

Jullien represents the Coalition for Placer Youth, which promotes strategies for creating substance-free lifestyles for youth. She is also a local author who writes about raising kids during the digital age. She credits Barrett and her peers with showing initiative and organizing the walkathon.

“Their message is we are one community and every person is important,” Jullien said. “We may have different interests, different appearances, different points of view, but (the organizers) are looking for a spirit of solidarity.”

Franny’s House, a crisis-support program for families dealing with emotional distress, also will be at the event along with Be Money Smart USA, which provides financial literacy and money management training.

Representatives from Full Circle Treatment Center, an outpatient adolescent treatment program, and PEACE for Families, which serves victims of domestic violence, also will be at the event, along with B.R.A.V.E. Society, which provides information on peer abuse prevention.

Jullien said despite all the pain experienced by the Granite Bay community in recent months, there is reason to remain positive.

“What the (students) are trying to do is create a little ripple of kindness and compassion and tolerance for everybody,” she said.

Sena Christian can be reached at senac@goldcountrymedia.com. Follow her on Twitter at SenaC_RsvPT.

----------

March to Make a Difference: Walkathon for Teen Awareness

When: Noon to 3:30 p.m. Saturday, April 14

Where: Granite Bay High School, 1 Grizzly Way in Granite Bay

Cost: Free and open to the public

Info: Three-mile walk followed by barbecue and social gathering in the campus quad