A Beaufort High School teacher’s dramatic attempt to stop bullying is now gaining national praise and a national award.
“Kind of like winning the lottery. Unexpected but extremely humbling.”
That’s how Laraine Fess feels about the National High School “Heart of the Arts” award she won this year.
She is the first South Carolina teacher to win the regional award, which there are 8 given out every year, much less the national prize.
The play she created seven years ago, “If you see something say something”, is designed to lets kids see all forms of bullying and see that they are not alone.
“We’ll talk about suicide, we will talk about being kind,” details Fess. “We will have some sort of challenge for the kids to do. labeling, hurtful words, how to handle it, those kinds of things will always be the same but how we deliver it will be different.”
Different because of the kids who perform it.
Each year they choose what’s important, what will register with the audience. What will help.
“Its a really big thing for us as a cast that it is not just pretend that we do, a role that we play but its a lifestyle,” explains Breanna Mock, student actor.
“it shows them that it is ok to be different. lIke me ill have 6 kids come up to me and say wow you were amazing, I didn’t think I could express myself as you do,” says Student actor Dyamante Scotland.
The actors express themselves, their problems, their fears.. and the audience listen.
“I can come in and help however I can as an adult but students will be the first line of defense because they are in the middle of it,” says Fess. “So in empowering kids that they have more power than they think and they can stop this. That’s what I wanted to do.”
“Some people at school bully but don’t know they are bullying,’ says Kayia Washington, student actor. “So once you show them, they say I kind of do that sometimes and that kind of changes the atmosphere.”
“When you are in that position of being bullied you are isolated,” says Ryan Winkler, Student actor.
“And when you see the show you realize oh maybe I should talk to somebody about it.”
Talking on stage which has led to talking to counselors, parents, to someone who will listen and help.
“When you see something when you see an injustice when you see bullying, stop it. You can stop it by telling an adult immediately,” says Laraine. “You can stop it by taking the person away from what’s going on you can stop it by using your words and telling people it is not cool, Stop it.”
Laraine follows the words on stage with action.
Every performer must sign an anti-bullying contract, and be willing to have their own social media and actions monitored by not just her, but by their fellow students. Students who have taken the message to heart and want bullying to end in their school, and all schools.