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Thursday, Mar 30, 2017

Ben Hill Middle School students push back against bullying

CARROLLWOOD — The kids at Ben Hill Middle School aren’t putting up with bullying anymore.

Orville Garcia is part of Ben Hill SAVE — Students Against Violence Everywhere. He is an eighth-grader and a big kid. No one messes with him. But he has witnessed bullying on campus and is determined to bring it to an end.

“In elementary school I was small,” Orville said. “I was bullied and I was afraid. I grew and can defend myself, but I don’t want anybody at this school to feel bullied. It isn’t right.”

Orville had an ace in his hand. His dad was a bouncer who knew how to fight and defend himself. Others aren’t quite as lucky.

“I got picked on a lot,” said sixth-grader Valeria Cabrera. “I would just be looking around, trying to study and I was picked on. I just wanted it to stop.”

Mikaylee Wilkes, another sixth-grader at Ben Hill, said she had a similar experience.

“There are so may people trying to tear other people down,” Mikaylee said. “There is cyber bullying and lots of other ways. Hopefully we can do something about it with SAVE. Nobody should be afraid to go to school and this is a really great school.”

The kids at Ben Hill say that verbal abuse is much worse than physical abuse.

“When they say you are ugly or something bad about you, it makes you feel really bad about yourself,” Valeria said. “They say I am ugly and I am not ugly. It’s just people trying to be mean to each other for no reason.”

Orville will be a freshman at Gaither High School next year. He’ll be going from being the big man on a middle school campus to a freshman at a high school, where the caste system is much different. But he isn’t afraid.

“I’m never going to be scared,” Orville said. “I have tons of friends and they all have my back. You kind of have to in high school. But at least I know I can be safe.”

So how do you deal with bullying? Valeria said she knows the best way.

“Someone said I was ugly,” Valeria said. “I just said thanks. Then I walked away and she left me alone.”