SAVVY Program: Teaching nonviolence, respect to cultivate healthier school environment
November 20, 2013
WIESBADEN, Germany - Being savvy isn't just being cool and in the know.
For the students at Wiesbaden Middle School, it means standing against unacceptable behavior and fostering an atmosphere of respect, kindness and honesty.
Students Against Violence and Victimization of Youth, with the help of volunteers from U.S. Army Europe and the Wiesbaden Boxing Team, made a commitment to promote peace in their school and community Nov. 6.
"We can't just hope that kids will be nice. It takes everyone," said Dr. Frankie Nielsen, SAVVY coordinator, who developed the program in the mid-'90s.
And though the middle school doesn't have a problem with bullying, administrators said that standing down to be more SAVVY has been an effective measure to maintain a healthy environment.
"The climate at the middle school gets better or worse; better if there is intervention."
Nielsen's program urges the immediate uprooting of unacceptable behavior -- which includes bullying in the earlier progressions of the violence continuum.
"Certain behaviors must be addressed well before fighting happens," said Nielsen, noting that the "seeds of violence" -- put-downs, insults, threats, trash talk, bullying and pushing -- grow into more violent and criminal behavior if not checked in its infancy. "We should never trivialize the ribbing that kids do to one another. There always has to be efforts to combat bullying."
Many of the volunteers present recounted that when they were in middle school bullying was different and less pervasive.
"I experienced it a little here and there, but it wasn't serious or malicious," said Capt. Chris Jacobsen, USAREUR.
"I really don't remember being bullied," said Capt. Alec Moyer, USAREUR. "Bullying is much more of an issue than it was when I was growing up. The cyber dimension is a whole new part of the battlefield."
"Your vision about being respectful and disrespectful changes a lot when you're older," said Spc. Joachim Chielens, USAREUR, as he spoke with a small group of students in the breakout sessions, highlighting the age difference between the students and himself. "Cyberbullying is a new anomaly … the Internet didn't exist when I was your age."
Volunteers and teachers broke out into smaller groups to discuss with students the way ahead for promoting nonviolence, respect, kindness and courtesy. In the discussions some students admitted to incidences of engaging in trash talking, and uttering insults and put-downs.
"If we don't do something about them they can lead to something worse," said Jabcobsen as he talked with a group of students about acceptable behavior for cultivating a respectful environment. "We want to grow different kinds of seeds."
Further discussion challenged students to think of what one could do individually to ensure peaceful and respectful surroundings.
The children said they could do things such as help others in need, be friendly, be courteous and show each other respect.
Students were further encouraged to write down Steps for Peace, personal actions they would take to stand against violence, disrespect, hostility and unkind acts. And most students signed the SAVVY Commitment Pledge.
Members of the garrison's boxing team punctuated the points of the day with a special appearance in a brief assembly. Sgt. 1st Class Adam Martinez, head coach, and three team members emphasized reporting incidents, encouraged befriending victims of bullying to help them out of such situations and reminded them that walking away to avoid victimization is always an option.