KUSA - When Gateway High School senior Rachel Kusner reads to students at Jewell Elementary in Aurora, she hopes one simple message sinks in.
“How to be nice to each other and use books to learn how to be nice” Kusner said.
Kusner is part of a month-long program called Peaceful Schools, offered in partnership with the Rotary Club, the YMCA and other community groups.
Peaceful Schools is a program where high school students and community volunteers read books to first graders created to teach positive social skills and help combat bullying based on four simple questions.
“Is it fair? Is it true? Will it help build friendships and is it good for everyone?” Kusner said.
That's a message she teaches first graders once a week while making a connection with those following in her footsteps.
“It makes them see differently, but it also puts it to you in a new perspective because you’re like ‘oh, I could be using this too,” Kusner said.
The partnership says bullying is a nationwide problem that affects one out of every four students each month. It also claims 15 percent of all school absences are out of fear of being bullied at school.
Peaceful Schools hopes to address those issues with the goals of creating a safe environment for elementary school children and reinforce school safety.
These are goals Jewell Elementary School Counselor Kim Dyer agrees with.
“Bullying is when you get to the point where if someone is feeling unsafe in the classroom, and that is important to us,” Dyer said. “Everybody should feel safe to come to school.”
The program is now in its second year and is being implemented in other elementary school grades. Community leaders like Executive Director of the YMCA of Aurora Kimberly Armitage hopes the students of Jewell Elementary feel part of a community that supports them.
“Teachers and schools have challenges every day,” Armitage said. “It’s really important for community organizations to be able to come together and help schools anyway they possibly can.”
Teachers and counselors at Jewell Elementary say the impact the program has had is huge and they hope to teach positive lessons to these students with one simple message during their childhood development.
“It’s good to teach them to try and be nice when they’re learning how to act without their parents,” Kusner said.
The program is one of many youth development programs being offered to schools by the YMCA.
They are hoping to raise awareness through fundraising with hopes of expanding it across the metro area in the future.
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