By Nathan Pfau, Army Flier Staff WriterMarch 2, 2017
FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- Bullies come in all shapes and sizes, and with the rise of social media, they can negatively affect children's lives in the virtual world, as well as the real world.
The Fort Rucker Youth Center sought to help local youth by combating bullying through its Face Off anti-bullying campaign rally held Feb. 24, which highlighted the impact and reach that bullying has on an individual, according to LaShia Brooks, youth technology lab program associate and coordinator for the event.
"I take it very personally when I see anyone being bullied," she said, "so we want to make children here are more aware of bullying and how it affects others."
The rally started with a video presentation depicting what it's like for those who are bullied in schools, and how bullying has evolved from direct confrontations in some cases, to cyber bullying through social media. It also highlighted the affect that bullying has on those who are bullied.
"It can be difficult for youth to understand sometimes how much it can impact other people," said Brooks. "I titled this (anti-bullying campaign) 'Face Off' because it's about telling people to face their fears and whatever it is they're finding to be challenging -- face it.
"But you're going to need your friends, you're going to need your family and you're going to need support," she said. "You need to know who to contact if this is something that is affecting you."
LaKeisha Newsome, Henry County Schools at-risk coordinator, was invited as a guest speaker to talk with the children on how bullying can impact others, especially with the advent of cyber bullying.
"There are effects to bullying," she said to the youth. "Sometimes it gives people low self-esteem, low grades and in some cases can even lead to suicide.
"Think about having to leave your house every day and having to deal with the same people saying the same stuff to you," she continued. "It can cause long-term effects with feelings of anger and bitterness, and (the victims) can often find they have a difficult time trusting other people."
Newsome said there is a rise in online bullying since much of it can be done through the veil of anonymity, but cyber bullies might not be as anonymous as they think.
"There are ways that they can find out who you are … and there are laws against bullying or harassment," she said. "Measures have been taken to address those who are behind cyber bully attacks, especially in instances that lead to harm -- people can be prosecuted for this."
People need to think twice when it comes to bullying another individual, she added, and when people notice situations of bullying, they should step in to help those who are being bullied -- either directly or indirectly -- by letting someone know.
"When you see these situations, it's OK for you to step in and be their protector," said Newsome. "What if that was your mom, your sister, your brother?
"Be that super hero that some people need because not everybody is able to (stand up for themselves)," she said. "Let's start a legacy of being a generation that leads good lives and leads by example."
Soldiers from the Warrant Officer Candidate School were also invited to share stories of bullying and speak on the impacts it can have on others, but despite the efforts, Brooks said the fight is never done.
This was the second year the rally has been held, and Brooks hopes to continue holding the rally each year to make sure she can spread the message that bullying is not OK.
"We're going to try to continue this every year," she said. "I'm excited about (bringing about this awareness) and I feel like we can actually make a difference with this. Even if I reach only one person, at least they're informed and they are aware that they have our support."