U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) talked with Magnolia High School's "Impact Group" on May 8 through Skype, a popular video-conferencing website. The Impact group, created by honor student and former victim of bullying Hannah Glow, focuses on ways to prevent bullying in schools. With MHS administrators, teachers, and fellow classmates, the Impact Group is working to increase awareness of bullying around her school and creating ways students can get involved in the anti-bullying campaign.
"Impact is not simple," Glow explained. 'It's not simply an anti-bullying program; there are many fundamental parts of Impact. Nothing is as it appears. I think you know, as before, the student body Impact group held a program for the high schoolers. Many IMPACT members got up and spoke about 'If you really knew me.'" Glow added, "it shows that there is a lot more to me than what you see. We also had another assembly with middle schoolers. We had to change it up a lot, because our audience was much different. We talked about images - whether we have an image of nerd, jock, senator, cheerleader. The title to the story is that name, but jock or nerd is just a name."
Glow continued on to say that a name holds impact. "Joe Manchin holds more impact than Hannah Glow," she said and added, "But Hannah Glow doesn't tell you about my hobbies . . . Impact's goal is to push further than just the appearance we all have, to get underneath that." She added, "We encourage other to get to know other's home lives, help people connect a bit more."
Pictured from left is Senator Joe Manchin’s Regional Coordinator, Mary Jo Guidi; Magnolia High School Student Hannah Glow; and Magnolia Principal Kathi Schmalz.
"Many people believe that this is just simply an anti-bullying campaign. I'd like to think there's nothing "anti" about it." Glow stated that by addressing these misconceptions, Impact would like to combat bullying and decrease harassment and suicide. "These are just by-products of Impact's goal," she stated.
She added that Impact would like to see Magnolia change from the inside out. "That's why we are called Impact. Impact means to influence, effect, or alter, and I think that as a member, I'd like to influence, effect, and alter the present situation at Magnolia. We need a culture change in our community and world, from ignorance and understanding. As I said, we'd like to see it work from the inside out."
Glow stated that the organization is student-led. "It's not simple or concrete. It's a bunch of ideas. We are growing." Glow said members influence each other to be real with one another.
Senator Manchin asked students who have been bullied to raise their hands. It appeared as if every student raised his or her hand. "You can see that it's an epidemic," Manchin noted. "You know how it made you feel, so you want to do something about it."
"You are all doing more than we've ever done," he noted, before explaining: "We can make it a crime to bully someone, but if you don't care enough to take care of your own environment . . . You should all be applauded for doing what you are doing. You should take this around the state. Every school should be a bully-free, crime-free environment."
"You all can identify," the senator noted. "you all know that if someone is having problems or if their demeanor has changed, if their social environment has changed, if they are gravitating toward a different group of people . . . There are a lot of tell-tale signs you can realize before a parent or teacher can see."
"Mass tragedies can occur and catastrophes . . . and you can't let that happen. You have to be in control and be involved, and I think you are"
Manchin then asked the forum of students if the club had a problem with people reaching out. "Do you think if they'll identify themselves, they'll be picked on more?"
"We have brought students in who have been involved in situations where they have harassed one another," Principal Kathi Schmalz stated. "Some will come in, and they'll move from their side of the table to our side, to where they want to help," she said.
"I think all of us have inherently inherited a moral compass to know right from wrong," Manchin added. "I don't need to tell you. You know inside you've done something that feels good, to help people . . . your moral compass will guide you. The thing about it is, there shouldn't be any type of harassment or discrimination at all. I don't care about your race, creed, sexual preference . . . nothing should allow anyone to harass," Manchin stated. "If you can continue to practice that and reach out to be involved, and if you reach out to other schools . . . They've experienced all you've experienced. They want a support group. That's why support groups are effective. I don't care if someone has a drug problem, an alcohol problem . . . It's no different than bullying."
"If a bully can intimidate you to make them feel superior, you just gotta stop it. I just appreciate what you are all doing, getting involved yourself. It's unbelievable."
When asked, Glow confirmed that social bullying is more prevalent than physical bullying these days, stating that "more words than actions these days."
"So basically, a bigger person saying, 'I'm going to beat you up,' is not as prevalent as social media to make you feel bad."
"Absolutely," Glow responded. "Definitely. People can say much more mean things, because they are hidden behind a phone or laptop or screen."
Glow stated that Impact is big with prevention, but if bullying has already occurred, there is a Twitter page. "We do all positive stuff. We make it cool to be kind."
Senator Manchin proposed the idea of "Myth and Fact from Impact." "If somebody says something about any one of you . . . Myth and Fact, from Impact . . . This is the facts. This was a lie . . . I get things written about me all the time . . . an agenda that I don't support or an agenda they want me to support, saying things, then I've got to put out the facts and say, 'That was inaccurate. These are the facts.' When you get people to listen to the facts, that's a heck of an impact . . ."
"I look forward to your class. I'd love to meet with you all. If I come up, I want you to invite as many of your classmates . . . I'm telling you one thing, the worst thing to do is go home at night and think that you have the whole world against you . . . If I had friends with me, willing to fight the good fight, I can face the next day."
"If you are willing to stand with the person, Impact will make a difference, and I think you are . . . Thank you and God Bless."