Students wear blue for the first day of Bullying Awareness Week at Winfield Elementary
Messages in chalk reading "bully-free zone," "be kind" and "Wildcat Warriors" covered the stairs of Winfield Elementary School, as students ran past the streamer-covered hand rails and through the front doors, many decked out in blue clothing.
Inside waited the Winfield Wildcat mascot, wearing a blue cape — special for this Monday in October — in a show of solidarity in the fight against bullying.
Students came in and got to add their names to the bully-free pledge — the big blue board was covered in names by the time buses had unloaded Monday.
Monday was the first day of Winfield Elementary School's Bullying Awareness Week, something the school is doing to start off National Bullying Prevention Awareness Month. This spirit week was headed by the school nurse, Jackie Diachenko, and is the first time it's been done at Winfield.
This week, Diachenko said, the school is doing a different theme each day. Monday was wear blue, Tuesday is Mismatch Day, Wednesday is Wildcat Wednesday, Thursday is Crazy Hair Day and Friday is Superhero Day.
"[Winfield is doing] what we can do here as a community to change the life of the kids starting in elementary school, which I feel is the biggest thing," Diachenko said.
It's important to start young with these lessons, she said, adding that it's the best time to make an impact with the kids.
"The way the world is now and what we're growing up in — I feel like if we're able to make a difference and stop the negativity at such a young age, then it's going to radiate through their life," she added.
Kids can learn what's appropriate or not, how to treat others and positive self talk, Diachenko said. Bullying awareness is a good time to talk not just about how to be positive with other students and the community, but also with themselves, she added.
And, she said, these are especially important lessons for students who may not be growing up in the best of homes.
"To be able to have that impact is what I'm looking for here," Diachenko added.
Diachenko started a Bullying Awareness Club this year, and said while this awareness week is the first of its kind for the school, she hopes to continue it each year and expand it throughout the entire school system.
Erin Sikorski, principal at Winfield, said students at the school are wonderful at embracing each other, especially because there are students from many different special programs within the building. Winfield houses an autism program, a program for early childhood special needs and a Learning For Independence program, she said.
"Our students have always found a way to understand that we all learn differently," she said. "This initiative just empowers them to take it to the next level."