BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Bullying is a big concern for a lot of families as the new school year gets underway, but Buffalo United Charter School students are getting life-lessons this week to help prevent problems with their peers and to help set them up for future success.
They’re getting better ideas about who they are, what they want to be, and how to be better team members thanks to the My Life My Power program.
“We’re around the country in 32 states and ten countries right now, and we’re just changing people’s lives at a young age,” explained My Life My Power founder and co-CEO Daniel Puder.
Standing in the Buffalo United Charter School gym as the school’s 3rd and 4th graders went through the program, it’s clear: Changing lives can be a noisy process. But that’s how the program works. My Life My Power gets kids talking to each other, connecting and asking big questions like ‘What’s your vision?’ ‘What’s your purpose?’ and ‘How can I support you?’
The program does not involve a list of Don’ts that a lot of anti-bullying programs do. The speakers don’t say, ‘Don’t bully’ ‘Don’t be mean’ or anything like that. Instead, the program revolves around positive behaviors, like urging kids to be loving, supportive, and kind. The speakers also use creative techniques to try to get the participants to listen up, like encouraging them to clap along when they hear the speaker’s voice, rather than trying to shout over the noise to get the kids to quiet down.
“Make them feel it. Get them to experience it. Get them to come together as a team and do something. We want to empower and inspire them,” Puder said.
Puder and the other speaker addressing the students, Jamin Olivencia, can be strong role models for the kids they’re working to inspire. Both are professional wrestlers, and both know first hand how hard life can be if you’re being bullied.
“That’s why I got into professional wrestling,” Olivencia said. “I grew up in special education classes. Got bullied. Got picked on. But the one thing I could never ignore my entire life was that I just love connecting with people.”
The students who are going through the program this week say they understand that making connections can make a big difference. “We talk to each other to sort things out so no one can be bullied and no one can be left out and feel left out,” said 4th grader Torrionna Bailey.
The school’s principal, Tammy Messmer, told News 4 she can see the difference in the kids who have been through the program every year it’s been offered at BUCS. “We’re starting to see it take shape where kids are hearing the same message year after year, and it is improving.”
Puder and Olivencia will be leading the My Life My Power program at BUCS through Tuesday.