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The Unity Awards

Celebrating those creating a world without bullying!

The Unity Awards are presented by:
The Faces of Change — The Youth Advisory Boards of PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center

Bullying is an issue that no child should ever have to endure. Fortunately, there are people who care and take action to make our schools, communities, and the web kinder, more accepting places. PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center is proud to host the 5th Annual Unity Awards on Wednesday, May 22nd, 2019, at PACER Center in Bloomington, Minnesota. The Unity Awards ceremony, first held in 2015, is an evening of celebration to gather and recognize those who are helping to create a world without bullying — whether it’s building awareness of bullying prevention, inspiring and empowering others to take positive action, or advocating for those who need support.

Nominations come in from around the country and have included teachers who have touched the lives of students, individuals or groups who have been active in their communities, and those who simply made someone feel that they were not alone.

Everyone is welcome to nominate an individual or a group for this year’s national awards:

  • Together Against Bullying
  • United for Kindness
  • United for Acceptance
  • United for Inclusion

Additionally, The Faces of Change Awards are presented to individuals or groups making a difference in Minnesota, where PACER’ National Bullying Prevention Center is located, and in the Los Angeles area, where NBPC maintains an office.


Youth Board Vision Statement

The Faces of Change believes that our generation has a responsibility to lead and interact with kindness, acceptance and inclusion. Our goal is to promote bullying prevention and inspire students to support one another. We are leaders who care and we will use our voices to show that student involvement can create positive change, resulting in stronger relationships, safer schools, and more supportive communities.

Youth Board Reads Blog Post

A message from the Youth Board

Highlights from the 2019 event!

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Highlights from the 2018 event!

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Highlights from the 2017 event!

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Highlights from the 2016 event!

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Highlights from the 2015 event!

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Leah Fuda, Halle West, and Alexis Zara – Students from York, South Carolina

“Three students from our high school DECA organization took the lead to bring attention to bullying prevention in our community! They planned, organized and carried out a ‘Bigger than Bullying’ 5K run in November as a part of our school district kick-off for bullying prevention. More than 150 participants from our small, rural community came together to support this effort! This very successful 5K brought attention to the issue of bullying, but also was a way to bring together community businesses who were sponsors, parents and students who were participants, along with others who now are aware of the bullying prevention program in our school district.

Starting from ‘scratch,’ these students began planning in early September to make this event happen. There was a long list of things to consider: PR, registration, setting entrance fees, ordering wristbands and t-shirts for participants, securing sponsors and other prizes. All of this in addition to finding a location and learning how to conduct a 5K including timing, signs, setting a course, water and snacks at the finish plus a thousand other little details! It was impressive to watch the planning progress and very rewarding to see the event come together — even on a very cold November morning!

At the conclusion of the 5K, the proceeds were donated to the school district’s bullying prevention program in a special presentation at the December School Board meeting. These funds were used to purchase materials in support of the bullying prevention program at York Middle School and York One Academy. These three students learned so much from planning the 5K, but also highlighted the importance of bullying prevention to everyone in our community.”

—Nominated by Sue Hilton

Abby Belcher – Student from Rowlett, Texas

“Abby created ‘Abby’s Pledge’ when she was just 9 years old, after her sister who has Asperger’s was bullied ruthlessly by school cheerleaders. This is a pledge that she created to help encourage other people to stand up against bullying. Abby travels across the country to share her story with others and to show that no matter how young a person is, they can make a real difference. She attends training sessions that are usually reserved for social workers, police officers and counselors just so she can learn different ways to help others to stand up against bullying. (It was at one if these events that I met her.) Thousands of people across the country have taken her pledge and she has volunteer supporters (including me) across the country who help spread her message to stand up against hate. She has created a website that people can go on which houses resources parents can use to get help from other sources, and she also helps to give kids the tools and provides lifeline numbers if they are depressed. Abby came to talk to our group about bullying and we took her pledge. Abby consistently puts others before herself. She is even working on a new bill that she hopes to present to congress this year. Abby also created a campaign called the ‘Be Brave Backpack’ drive for which she distributes new backpacks filled with school supplies to kids living in domestic violence or homeless shelters so they don’t have to go to school and get bullied by others because they lack supplies. She also created the ‘Brave the Elements’ hats, gloves and sandwich drive which she went out and fed the homeless in places most would not dare to travel. She mows other people’s grass, pulls weeds and does chores in the community to help raise money for her cause. She is humble and an inspiration to all. And, she also became a school cheerleader to help break the stereotypes that cheerleaders are mean. But most of all, she is living her pledge to ‘Notice and take action’ daily, proving that no matter what the circumstance, anyone can make a real difference in their community.”

—Nominated by Donna Smith

“Abby is a young lady I met when we started our Anti-Bullying crusade. Knowing her and seeing her passion about bullying prevention motivated me to push our campaign even harder. She motivates all she comes in contact with, and she doesn’t take bullying lightly. Abby founded her own organization and travels with her own money to talk about bullying. This young lady is REMARKABLE! She speaks with a passion and continues her fight against bullying.”

—Nominated by Jeanette Greenwood

Mindy Murtley – Community member from Barnum, Minnesota

“My wife works full time as a RN and during her off time, evenings and weekends, she and another lady have been working continuously to start a local non-profit organization called Buddies not Bullies Inc. She has reached out to the school districts, the local mayors and the community to provide support, education and resources to the citizens and communities. She is devoted to making a difference. As a full time nurse, she never stops working. She is bringing a walk/5K run to the Duluth area. The support she has received is amazing from schools willing to work alongside her. I believe her tireless efforts sometimes may go unnoticed, however I notice and what she has taken on is amazing. Our community was lacking this in our area, and she has come forth to make a difference for everyone.”

—Nominated by Scott Murtley

Girl Scout Troop 4073 – Girl Scout Troop from Duluth, Minnesota

“The Girl Scout troop at Piedmont Elementary School worked with the school to start a Unity Day event in 2014. The troop and other students made signs for ‘Wear Orange for Unity Day’ and ‘Be a Buddy, Not a Bully.’ A brownie who is on the autism spectrum designed a patch for the scouts and orange tee shirts for the troop and some teachers. The troop will be in that school for 2 more years and hopes to build the event every year.”

—Nominated by Loretta Ronding

Alexis Saldana

I would like to nominate Alexis Saldana for this or really any of the awards you offer. As this school year began Alexis was campaigning for the office of 8th grade President and she herself experienced bullying from others. Other students bullied her as they were wanting another candidate instead of her to win. This was something she had never encountered before and really was upset by the behavior of others. Instead of backing out, or ignoring it, Alexis faced the situation head on. Her speech for office included her experience and a plan for improvement. She won the election which shows most students do not agree with bullying behavior. Afterward Alexis put the experience behind her and has continued to work all year building a school environment that accepts all, includes all, and looks within each individually for what they can do.

- Nominated by Jon Carlton

Patricia Mastropolo

I feel like this particular individual qualifies for this award mainly because in the beginning of this school year I was really scared and shy but she helped break out of my "shell". She made me feel like I belonged and helped me with my bullying situation. In light of that, I feel that if I hadn't have told her I wouldn't have told anyone. I knew that if I told her the student bullying me would probably get mad and I didn't want that. But I knew it had to stop. She actually made him stop and he wasn't mad because she explained to him what he was doing was wrong. Now I can go to school comfortably and with ease because of her. She is the nicest person I know and she deserves recognition for all the kindness she has given.

- Nominated by a student

Meredith Warren

Meredith Warren took someone being severely bullied and spent hours daily helping her get to where she is today, through video chat, texting, and even dropping everything just to see her. She looked beyond her disability and flaws and gave her something that she hasn't seen before - confidence. She is a wonderful person and has helped countless others with whatever it is that they need. She deserves this award.

- Nominated by another student

Lockhart Elementary School

The Lockhart School’s Primary School's Primary Explorers, Artists and Future Architects Recess Club is comprised of approximately 35-50 students who have taken a stand to forego taking part in all forms of negative behavior, and spend their free time "creating things of beauty”. The Lockhart School's Performing Artists In Action Club, is a social action group made up of 10 students from grades 2nd-4th who use singing, dance, chanting, skits and poetry to empower their peers and the other students at our school to turn away from bullying during recess time. I nominate this club, because students come together to enforce the virtues and citizen character skills of Kindness, Respect, Cooperation, Diversity, Compassion and Unity.

- Nominated by JoAnne Saunders

Notes of Kindness Crew: Students from Rochester, MN

Addison, Ava, Jordyn, Teagan, and Nora, students at John Adams Middle School, wanted to brighten everyone’s day by spreading messages of hope and encouragement. Together, these 6th grade girls cut out a ton of shapes, using post-it notes, and wrote kind things on them. They then stuck 1400 notes on every student’s locker. It took the girls over two weeks to hand write and shape the notes, with messages such as “Smile, it looks good on you” and “You are amazing in so many ways.”

Orono High School Unified Club: School Group from Orono, MN

The Orono High School Unified Club is comprised of students with and without disabilities with a goal of fostering inclusion in their school. This club started a few years ago and has grown significantly due to the student leadership. They are truly instilling inclusion in their school through other programs such as social opportunities, academic mentoring, fundraising efforts, speaking engagements, and bullying prevention campaigns like the 'Spread the Word to End the Word' campaign.

Lakeview Elementary Kindness Council: School Group from Lakeville, MN

The Lakeview Elementary Kindness Council is made up of 25 fifth grade students who, under the direction and guidance of their school counselor, commit to spreading kindness across their school and the community. The Kindness Council organizes and implements a variety of activities throughout the school year to promote kindness toward others. These young people are an amazing example of how simple acts of kindness can change the climate of a school and improve learning for all!

The TEAM (Together Everyone Achieves More): School Group from Slayton, MN

This group of students in grades 7 – 12th was originally formed a bullying prevention task force. They decided on the name TEAM (Together Everyone Achieves More) because they wanted to take a positive and proactive approach to preventing bullying. Each year they have organized "Kindness Week" in March. They put affirmation post-it notes on the lockers of every student and the doors of every staff. They did classroom presentation for all grade K-12. They basically got our whole community involved in focusing on kindness.

A Message From The Youth Board

Patricia Mastropolo - "United for Kindness" Award

Meredith Warren - "United for Acceptance" Award

Lockhart Elementary School – “United for Inclusion” Award

Bay City Central Anti-Bullying Pledge Club

The Bay City Central Anti-Bullying Pledge Club does many things around the community, such as working on implementing PACER’s We Will Generation curriculum in its area schools, presenting an assembly to local schools, and helping others in their times of desperate need. They are working on getting funding in other schools in the state of Michigan to have this type of program. Thanks to this club, the culture at Bay City Central High School has changed drastically over the years. They are assisting its Special Olympics Michigan Chapter, Unified Champions, with their "End the R-word Week.”

The BCC ABPC believes that CHANGE IS POSSIBLE! Who they are:

Actually, we are not that different from you! We come from all walks of life, but we have one very important belief in common.

What WE believe:

• It is TIME to stand up to bullying.
• We can CHOOSE to avoid posting online or participating in anything that is meant to harm someone's reputation or self-esteem.
• It is essential to COMMIT to "think before you tweet" and "ponder before you post."

The Bay City Central Anti-Bullying Pledge Club not only looks for ways to prevent bullying in our school, but we also hold assemblies at our area schools. This year’s school show is called "We Are Hopeful." Our club has presented in front of 80 transport directors across the State of Michigan. We have also spoken to many middle and high schools across the Great Lakes Bay Region.

Colebrook Academy Key Club

Colebrook Academy Key Club has accomplished an average of more than 60 hours per member of community service in the last year. At the beginning of the school year, they had 20 members, and now they have 27.

The students have trick-or-treated for UNICEF (donating $100), made parts for shoes through Soles for Hope, raised money for Pennies for Patients, raised funds to give 10 families holiday meals, bought gifts for a boy who wouldn't have had a Christmas, cleaned up Beaver Brook Falls (a local park), helped with a STEM project at the elementary school, helped fellow students raise money to go to Key Leader (a leadership training for teenagers), participated in "New Hampshire RESPECT Week" (taught about unhealthy and unhealthy relationships to their peers), and more!

Bethany Piotter

Bethany Piotter, a sophomore at the University of Northern Iowa has always been a huge fan of making people feel like they aren't alone. This school year, however, she made her biggest step yet.

Bethany created an inclusive group on UNI's campus. She is now the president of the group, UNIted Dance Company. This company is made up of multiple college students, each paired with a child from the community – some with and some without disabilities. She felt it necessary to include ALL kids, as not to make anyone feel different.

Bethany works hard to use kind words and loving mannerisms – even throughout the chaos of trying to teach dance with so many energetic children. She is also an elementary special education major at UNI, and plans to spend her entire lifetime working on inclusiveness. She is still so young, and such an amazing and deserving advocate who has already made such big strides.

John Schulzetenberg

During my weekly morning meetings with this student's mother, she often shares kind stories about her son engaging in outstanding behaviors that warm my heart. I have never met this child formerly, but the stories that I hear about bravery, kindness, insight, empathy, and values are impressive.

One morning, his mother shared a particular story about her son standing by a peer in the lunch room when he was being ostracized by a group of John's own friends. John continued to sit with a peer in the lunch room while his own friend group actively tried to get him to abandon this other child. John was able to be assertive and withstand the peer pressure of his friends trying to influence him to alienate another child.

John, when speaking to his mother, stated, "I could never do that to someone." John demonstrated outstanding moral character and kindness toward others in general, but his desire to make someone being excluded feel included is commendable.

North Branch Area Middle School Student Council

The Student Council at North Branch Area Middle School has worked very hard this year to empower every student to take a stand against bullying. This fall, they celebrated Unity Day by bringing awareness of the need for inclusion of all and the importance of empowering bystanders. Every student and staff member signed Unity Day posters that have since been put on permanent display in the hallways as a reminder of the pledge to stay united. On October 17, the entire school took a victory lap against bullying around the track, which culminated in a huge orange color cloud ‒ a symbol and reminder to "make it orange, make it end."

From there, the group created a Student Shout-Out board in the hall and took the responsibility of maintaining it throughout the school year. Students highlight another student's positive action by submitting a shout-out form, which are posted on the board. So far, the school of 650 students have posted more than 300 student shout-outs. This has grown to include the council members posting shout-outs for staff in the mail room. To remind them of their commitment to the most challenging part of the year, all students received swag rags (handkerchiefs with the school logo) in April. They gathered in the bus corral and the student council held a unity rally. The local fire department had their cherry picker there and all students who filled out a shout-out or received one were entered in a drawing to get rides over the crowd.

These efforts, combined with a great school staff and student group, have resulted in the most positive and safe student and staff climate in years, and a surge of interest in student involvement. All these activities were student council-sponsored and paid for with money they raised for the efforts.

Elaina Leitzke

Elaina was concerned about the attitudes and behaviors of staff and students towards students with disabilities in her school. She had heard stereotypical comments made about deaf and blind individuals come from staff members, and wanted to make them aware of how these comments would affect those with disabilities, as well as the attitudes of other students and staff towards those with disabilities.

As a result, she approached the school principal and suggested sensitivity training for staff. She also initiated a peer advocacy/mentoring group in the school, which is made up of students with and without disabilities.

She is a role model and leader for kindness, inclusion, and acceptance in her school and community. Her actions also demonstrate a commitment to finding solutions and building bridges between community members.

Watertown Mayer Middle School

A group of middle school students from Watertown-Mayer, Minn., directly contributed to creating a positive school climate by sharing their thoughts, opinions, and perspectives on how they view bullying behavior within their school and online community.

These sixth, seventh, and eighth graders were invited to participate in a focus group to represent their peers and share their views on questions such as “What does bullying look like at their school?” or “What impact does bullying have on students?” They were also asked to share ideas on how their school — including incorporating student participation — can help to address and prevent bullying.

The students enthusiastically shared articulate, insightful, and perceptive responses, providing educators and administrators with a unique perspective into the student experience. Their willingness and courage helped guide school personnel with information that was thoughtful, authentic, and candid. It was used as a catalyst to develop effective, student-relevant solutions on how bullying will be addressed at their school.

We celebrate these students along with the educators who supported them during the process. Together they are building a school climate in which everyone feels valued and respected.

Wayzata High School Unified Physical Education

Wayzata High School is currently piloting a class titled Unified Physical Education that brings together students with and without disabilities in a physical education setting focusing on physical, relational, and health topics.

This class is making a huge impact, not only for the students in the class, but also for school communities. Inclusion is such a powerful concept and this is a great way to foster more of it!

Mentors and Protectors at Burton Tech High School

This group has worked all year on bullying prevention ‒ every week, during four class periods each week. They created a program called "Bullying Bootcamp," writing all the lessons and activities, and have gone into their homerooms across the entire school to raise awareness about bullying. 

They also did a school-wide celebration on Unity Day last October that had more than 300 people, including invited guests and local elected officials. Aided by their teacher, Allison Levine, they are now reviewing their entire year so they can do it again next year! 

They will begin by teaching the incoming freshman class a week of "Bullying Bootcamp" this summer and continue on into the new school year. They are amazing and they should get some recognition.

Marveon Mabon

Marveon was recently voted "Youth of the Month" in his housing project because of his desire for positive change. Everyone looks up to him as a leader. Because of his influence with his peers, he has decided to take on bullying prevention as his special project at school, distributing materials and spreading awareness throughout his school community and neighborhood. He is also active in student government.

Bay City Central Anti Bullying Pledge Club - "United Against Bullying" Award

Colebrook Academy Key Club - "United for Kindness" Award

North Branch Area Middle School Student Council – “Faces of Change” Award

Mentors and Protectors at Burton High School – “Faces of Change” Award

Marveon Mabon – “Faces of Change” Award

2017 Unity Awards

Youth Board Reads Blog Post

Marshall Elementary School Bullying Prevention Group – “Together Against Bullying” Award

“This group is made up of dedicated fourth-graders who want to make a difference in our school. They work together to make sure our school remains bully free. They have addressed the definition of bullying and taught our school the rules we are to follow if they feel they are being bullied. Each month they have created a schoolwide theme, like Friendship or Respect. They display the theme on a poster and hang quotes around the school that relate to the theme. This group has also created a green screen announcement each month to inform the school of bully prevention events and how to be bully free. This month they are creating lessons to teach to the younger students about being a good friend. They will read a story to the students and take about what a bully is and how to help your friend if you are the bystander. The lesson will have an activity the fourth-grader created to address their topic during their book. The bully prevention group raised money during a schoolwide event and bought a Buddy Bench which we will place on our school playground. This bench is for a student that is lonely and does not have anyone to play with, they are to go to the bench and a Marshall friend will come and get them to play. We are very excited to present this bench this spring to our students and staff. The Marshall Elementary School Bully Prevention Groups is ending this school year with a “Be a Buddy, Not a Bully”, schoolwide poster contest. Kids are going to create a poster to fit the schoolwide theme. The grade level winners will win a prize from local business and the school winner will have their poster made into a banner which will be hung outside our school next year.” – Nominated by Dense Zallow, Educator

Nolan Russell – “United for Kindness” Award

“Nolan is 10 years old and he always makes sure everyone is included and felt loved. There is a girl in his class that says she has no friends, Nolan became friends with her so she was not left out. Nolan has gotten several letters from kids in his class saying how he is kind to them.

Last school year Nolan was selected by a classmate with autism to help calm him down when he has a meltdown, as he said Nolan understands him and helps him. Nolan still worries about the boy and looks out for him at recess.

Some days Nolan comes home from school upset and sad because someone else was being bullied and he wasn’t able to stop it. Nolan includes everyone to make sure nobody is left out. If someone is left out Nolan will leave the group to be with them.” – Nominated by Misty, Parent

Nick Green – “United for Acceptance” Award

“Nick is a young History teacher at Wichita West High School. He has developed Nerd Night, a couple hours of card or board games, anime, magic, art, costumes or whatever the individual kids want. It started out small earlier this year. It is becoming known as a place where there is no judgment or bullying. At the last meeting, there were 60 kids in attendance and a few kids from SE High School attended because they want to start their own group. This is not sponsored by the school. It’s been funded by Nick and his partner Mrs. Wallace. I see this as being something that will continue to grow and it’s a great idea.” – Nominated by Jim Homan, Community Member

Lisa Lucario – “United for Inclusion” Award

“Ms. Lucario moved to Greensboro from Houston, Texas and changed our school for the better. Since her arrival at our school, a little over a school year ago , she has done many things to improve our school environment . This school year alone, she has formed a bullying prevention club called “Lean On Me” (the first club of its kind at our school) and has constructed a learning environment all her own where differences are accepted, not judged. She's more involved with her students than most teachers , and she thinks of her students as her children and we students feel loved. Lean on Me has hosted many school events like a screening of “Wonder” at our local theatre, selling “buddy” wrist bands to let students know that they're not alone, and planned a special bullying prevention performance to open the Talent Show, which will consist of club members signing the lyrics to the song ,“Lean On Me” to help the deaf feel included as well. In addition to all of this, she's realistic. She's not trying to change students' views on the world or opinions but encourages us all to choose kind and celebrate differences. This unity is important because before Ms. Lucario showed up, our school was filled with bullying. She has made an impact for the good of our school, and each day the amount of bullying at Greensboro Academy vanishes.” – Nominated by Alex Bailey, Student

Shakopee High School GLOmies – “Faces of Change” Award

“GLOmies is a student driven and student lead group at Shakopee High School. In their few years of existence, their mission to change their school culture towards inclusion is working. Through initiatives such as the Spread the Word to End the Word campaign, the GLOmies group spreads the message of acceptance for students of all abilities. This group meets on a weekly basis and focuses on activities such as arts and crafts, unified sports, and even doughnut sales! The impact this group of students is making is spreading outside of the school walls and the Shakopee community is feeling the inclusion movement growing at varsity sporting events, school dances, community engagement events. These students are part of the unified generation and are changing mindsets towards looking at others for their abilities, rather than disabilities.” – Nominated by Nick Cedergren

Coon Rapids High School Kindness Campaign – “Faces of Change” Award

“This year Coon Rapids High started a yearlong campaign called Kindness Matters, which has consisted of contests, challenges, charity drives, pep assemblies, posters, and other messaging planned throughout the year. They first launched the campaign planned by school leaders with a pep festival which included their two assistant principals dressing up a superheroes, entering the gym on motorcycles, and giving an inspiring speech on kindness. Kindness is also encouraged throughout the year as teachers hand out ‘random acts of kindness’ cards, challenging students to complete. Coon Rapids High School has taken on the message of kindness in full force and deserves to be acknowledged for all they do!” – Nominated by PACER’s Youth Advisory Board, Minneapolis

Eagle Heights Spanish Immersion Unified Club – “Faces of Change” Award

“I would like to nominate the Eagle Heights Spanish Immersion Unified Club in Eden Prairie. Eagle Heights Spanish Immersion is a K-6 elementary school in the Eden Prairie School district. The club is made up of 5th and 6th graders.  It's goal is to encourage inclusion of students of all abilities and to build a community of acceptance and kindness.  It meets bi-weekly and hosts several events during the school year, including an adaptive floor hockey event with 5th and 6th grade students and Special Olympics athletes.  It also participated in Polar Plunge and threw a winter party.” – Nominated by Rose Quintero, Parent

Jefferson Elementary School – “Faces of Change” Award

“Jefferson Elementary is a school that is all about Unity! They celebrate Unity Day in the Fall with a food drive to help another school in their district with many needs. The week long celebration includes spirit days that are connected with brining in food or self-care items. After October, they still celebrate Unity Day each month on the last Wednesday of the month with friendship announcements provided by various students from different grades. As Michael, their school social worker shared, ‘It’s nice to see our students wearing orange as well as getting along.’” – Nominated by PACER’s Youth Advisory Board, Minneapolis

Esperanza Lee – “Faces of Change” Award

“Esperanza Lee, a student at Woodbury High School, began the Stick With Hope initiative in 2017 after seeing youth with mental health issues dropout of school. Stick With Hope is a youth-led initiative to advocate for mental wellness among youth through notes of encouragement. It seemed as though parents and other caring adults often did not know how to encourage them. When asked why she started the initiative, Esperanza Lee responded: “I started Stick With Hope in 2017 to advocate for mental wellness among youth. I developed presentation scripts for middle school and elementary school students that introduce them to depression, anxiety, and mental health stigma. One way to reduce mental health stigma is for adults and youth to write simple hand-written notes of encouragement. Through my involvement with Woodbury Thrives’ Mental Well-Being Action Team, I have experienced valuable connections with caring adults; they have been great mentors. One of Stick With Hope’s long-term goals is for more youth to receive encouragement in the school setting, such as through social workers, counselors, teachers, student wellness groups, peers etc.” Messages of hope are written on sticky notes printed with “There is ALWAYS hope”. Esperanza is willing to share the presentation scripts and packs of Stick With Hope notes for use in schools and community organizations.” – Nominated by Carol, Parent

Lindsey Roe – “Faces of Change” Award

“Lindsay Roe promotes inclusion at Battle Creek Middle School with her friendly outgoing personality. She make every student feel loved and as though they are apart of something bigger. She is not only inclusive with students, but her coworkers as well. Lindsay was one of the first teachers I met when I started at Battle Creek and was the first to invite me out so that we could get to know each other outside of school. She is an amazing leader and I couldn’t think of anyone more deserving of this award.” – Nominated by Kali Sherod and Erika Theiler

The Peer Mentors of Thousand Oaks High School – “Faces of Change” Award

“This group of 25 students created many activities throughout the school year to unify not only their school community but beyond to other schools in their district to assist with bullying prevention and so much more. They promoted kindness, acceptance, and inclusion, through events like “Lunch Bunch” (to encourage all students to come together), "World of Wonder" (where students created lessons for elementary schools based on the movie Wonder), as well as creating a student survey on cyberbullying to create better understanding of the issue, assisting with the “All-District Middle School Leadership Conference” that challenged middle schools to create inclusive activities in their schools, creating a campaign called “It's Okay to Be You,” and assembling and handing-out “Stress-Relief Care Packages” to support their peers experiencing the symptoms of stress.” – Nominated by PACER’s Youth Advisory Board, Los Angeles

The Interfaith Council of Greater Rancho Santa Margarita – “Faces of Change” Award

With a mission of outreach to all in their communities, this group of adults and students from 17 different faith congregations and 6 cities in Southern Orange County, CA, produced 2 public forums in 2017 under the title of “Bigotry, Bullying, and Bravery” for teens and adults. The teen event was run by 10 student leaders and focused on helping teens identify when they were in the middle of a bigotry or bullying situation, brainstorm solutions, and 'try on' what it feels like to speak up and support others when these situations arise. The adult forum focused on what could be done to support the youth and learn from the feedback gained from the youth forum. The themes for this year’s “Bigotry, Bullying, and Bravery” forums are “Now Walk in My Shoes” for youth and “The Next Step” for adults. The Interfaith Council of Greater Rancho Santa Margarita is committed to events that unite all members of the community around acceptance and inclusion.

Coon Rapids High School Kindness Campaign - “Faces of Change” Award

The Peer Mentors of Thousand Oaks High School - “Faces of Change” Award

The Interfaith Council of Greater Rancho Santa Margarita - “Faces of Change” Award

Charles Kolin – “Together Against Bullying” Award

“Charles Kolin’s positive energy and hard work enabled him to almost single-handedly bring Unity Day to his school, Greens Farms Academy (GFA). When Charles first heard about Unity Day and saw a video on PACER’s website promoting the event, he was inspired to make this day of celebration and awareness a reality at GFA. Others’ thoughts and feelings have served as the driving force behind Charles’s commitment to this project.

From the very beginning, he wanted students who felt different or excluded to know that they weren’t alone. For the event, he wrote a speech in which he revealed his own experiences with being bullied at his previous school. In his speech, Charles shared the following: “Although I had to go through my bullying experience alone, my hope is that no one else has to. Putting an end to bullying is an extreme task. I truly believe in the best of people...I believe that if we unite as neighbors, as a family, we can end bullying so that our classmates, those who are different, those with disabilities that you can or cannot see, those who are the new kids, are all treated with compassion, understanding, and kindness. We can make sure that no one walks alone and that no one is isolated. The power of many can positively affect so many people’s lives and make them feel welcomed and part of a team.”

Charles was able to recruit and inspire his own team of students and adults to help organize and plan the event. Twelve faculty members and students (including Charles) gave speeches and performed original poems about inclusion and acceptance in front of the many upper and middle school students who sacrificed their free period to attend and show support for the cause. Thanks to Charles, the majority of the school wore orange wristbands throughout the day and, more importantly, carried on conversations about kindness and inclusion that were sparked by carefully written discussion questions.

More energized and ambitious than ever, Charles is already planning Unity Day for 2019. He is in the process of reaching out to other schools as well as local politicians to invite them to participate, too. Charles wants his school to ‘lead the charge for Unity Day and help people all over the world.’”

Riverhead Peacemakers – “United for Kindness” Award

“Six years ago when I became the prevention social worker for Riverhead Community Awareness program, a student came to me about starting a bullying prevention club. From this, The Riverhead Peacemakers were born. Every year this group of dedicated fourth graders acts as role models in their schools. They read every class a book about not bullying and have them sign a pledge not to bully and to be kind. They have every school in our district participate in an event called the Great Kindness Challenge where they complete as many kind deeds as they can. During this time, all the elementary schools read a book called Emily and the Kindness Bracelet and have the students participate in a kindness bracelet activity. Since its inception, the Peacemakers have grown and have become an integral part of our school community spreading their message of inclusion and kindness.”

Mr. Jamie Pernick & Mr. John Efthemis – “United for Acceptance” Award

“Mr. Pernick is one of our assistant principals and Mr. Efthemis is a highly regarded English teacher here at Lancaster High School. For the past five years, they have spearheaded a group of students who orchestrate a truly heartfelt musical performance at a “Bands Against Bullying” show that takes place every April. The dedication that these two men show to the students who volunteer to orchestrate this performance and be involved in the production of the show is second to none. Mr. Pernick takes care of the logistics of the event and attends the meetings necessary to be able to take part in the show. Mr. Efthemis works directly with the students, putting well over 100 extra duty hours from December through April when the performance takes place at the University at Buffalo, Amherst Campus.

Working as support staff in the high school, I get to see firsthand how beneficial this program is. The students that participate in this endeavor come from diversified branches of student life. You can see the visible apprehension in the faces of some students when they first begin in December, but by the time of the production they are basically united as a family. It’s truly amazing to see how this diverse group comes together. Usually, these two educators recommend students to attend the informational meeting who they know may need a morale boost or a feeling of inclusion. The feeling of belonging and having a purpose to accomplish this performance can be the one thing that keeps some of these students feeling really good about themselves.

Both Mr. Pernick and Mr. Efthemis have helped to broaden the minds of many students, facult, and family members alike about being empathetic to one another and allowing each unique individual to contribute something special to this show. This year we have 29 students directly involved and the theme of the performance touches on issues regarding bullying, racism, gender identification, and academic issues among peers. The efforts of these two educators have helped to provide insight to all who are fortunate enough to see this production! Both Mr. Pernick and Mr. Efthemis should be acknowledged for their selfless contributions to many students, especially over the past five years when they have participated in this “Bands Against Bullying” program.”

Sachiri Henderson & the BEAST CREW – “United for Inclusion” Award

Sachiri Henderson, a 14 year old 8th grade student, started the club BEAST CREW her 7th grade year at middle school. BEAST stands for Bullying Ends against Students Together, which she came up with after experiencing bullying in 4th grade. The objective of this enthusiastic group is to provide a safer and kinder campus. They meet with an objective of eradicating bullying on campus and creating a kinder and inclusive campus. They have shown acceptance to peers and others on campus and work to include other students in the club regardless of their abilities. It›s refreshing to see this amazing population of young people share their experiences while working to ensure that others do not have to experience similar traumas. This club has been instrumental in creating change at Youree Drive Middle by bringing a greater awareness of bullying’s prevalence, working as a group to address issues and create an atmosphere of acceptance.

Along with founding BEAST CREW at her middle school, Sachiri has used PACER’s mission throughout her pageant career and has now made BEAST CREW, Inc. a corporation with the objective of having BEAST clubs and/or Unity Day events at schools and community organizations, who are already on board to share kindness and be inclusive of others while addressing bullying. She has lead her school in a number of community service projects and worked to create a kinder campus by speaking on all forms of bullying, using personal power to speak up, bystander approach, and conflict resolution to name a few. The highlight of her efforts is the annual Unity Day event, which has brought together the community. Her desire to create visible change on her campus as well as educate the community is evident in her pursuit to create a kinder community as she went from being a target to a survivor herself.”

Rogue Robotics, Farmington High School Robotics Team – “Faces of Change” Award

The Farmington High School Robotics Team, known as Rogue Robotics, was created “to give students an opportunity to develop an interest in STEM and other team skills.” Along with exploring creativity through STEM, this robotics team has been active in creating inclusion within their local community. They have made a powerful impact this year by creating two functioning power wheelchairs, hand-built from Power Wheels riding toys, for children with disabilities. The team has taken their expertise in technology and building, as well as assistance from GO-BABY-GO, to create these power wheelchairs, which can cost thousands of dollars. While this team has won many competitions in the past, this work in their community has made a widespread impact. As one team member shared, “I think we won here more than we do in our competitions.”

Kaia Kallestad – “Faces of Change” Award

The moment Kaia Kallestad walks into our 2nd grade classroom she radiates kindness from her head to her toes! She is a breath of fresh air. She sees the good in everything! There is not one ounce of negativity in this young lady. She finds ways to encourage her classmates throughout our school day. She will say, “Great job!”, “You can do it!”, and “Can I help you?” to all her classmates. Her infectious smile and quiet, subtle ways can change a student’s mood. Her kindness rubs off on everyone. If we are finishing up our Morning Meeting with one of our daily activities, you will find Kaia giving high fives to the winners of the game. When a classmate is sharing a story or special personal item, Kaia is sitting, watching, and listening to every word. She knows that item is special to her classroom friend and she wants them to shine during their sharing time. Kaia demonstrates kindness in every act she does. During this school year, Kaia was bullied by a classmate. She didn’t tell anyone at first, but then found the courage to talk to her parents, who are amazing advocates for their daughter. They reported what was going on and from then on, Kaia has used her own voice to report any type of bullying behavior. I am nominating Kaia Kallestad because she is the perfect example of how a person should treat others. Kaia is creating a kinder world!

South View Middle School Peer Insights – “Faces of Change” Award

The South View Middle School Peer Insights group creates a culture of acceptance and inclusion within their school walls, which extends to their community. This group started in 2010 with the simple question, of “Why Not?” Students and staff looked at their school’s footprint and schedule and asked themselves, “Why not include students with disabilities?” and from there the inclusion revolution started. Students with and without disabilities now have formalized times within their school day to interact with one another through academic tutoring or social activities. The impact of this group creates a school culture that expects inclusion in their everyday lives and extends outside of their school days. This group also participates in events with Special Olympics MN where they showcase their unified mindsets on the sporting field. Peer Insights is recognized nationally as a ‘premier program’ for inclusion at the middle school level.

Prairie View Student Council – “Faces of Change” Award

Since one of our school expectations is to Be Kind, the student council decided to sponsor an entire Kindness Week in February. To prepare for this we made signs and put up a banner in the lunchroom. We made signs that said ‘Time to be Kind’ and hung them from every hallway clock in the building. We also made morning announcements the previous week and challenged every classroom to compete in a friendly competition to decorate their classroom door for the week by incorporating a heart into their theme. Students chose four winners and they received bags of popcorn. For the actual week, student council officers read a quote about kindness over the intercom every morning. Students were also challenged to perform random acts of kindness all week long. Student council members had pockets full of erasers with positive affirmations, such as ‘awesome’ and ‘super,’ that they handed out all week when they observed students being especially kind or helpful. We wanted to make sure the staff was included, too, so we wrote up cards and put out treats each day for the entire staff. Some of these were oranges-“Orange You Glad It’s Kindness Week?” and doughnuts- “Doughnut Forget It’s Kindness Week!” We also taped a few baggies with a kind note from the student council and two quarters onto our soda machine in the staff lounge as a random act of kindness (RAK). This was particularly well received and appreciated! We put up a RAK Staff Challenge in the staff lounge, too. This had five suggestions for the week, one for each day, and included such things as, “Tell your class three things you appreciate about them,” and, “Praise a staff member you work with.” Lastly, during lunch we pulled down our big screen and played peaceful music with beautiful scenery from all around the earth to remind us that kindness is needed all over the world. This was our first Kindness Week. All items were purchased by the student-run student council school store proceeds, although we tried to keep cost minimal. I believe it was a big success due to the hard work of our student council members.

Pete Martinez – “Faces of Change” Award

Pete Martinez is a Youth Outreach Worker for The Conejo Recreation and Park District in the City of Thousand Oaks. He works with “at-risk youth” and connects with each one through compassion, acceptance, understanding, and respect. He conducts bullying awareness workshops designed for 7th and 8th grade students in the Conejo Valley Unified School District. Participating students are “awakened” to empathy, shown how to recognize the various types of bullying, are encouraged to prevent and respond to bullying, and understand the importance of standing up to bullying and how to do it. Pete believes that there is power in kindness, but it takes a little courage to use it on ourselves first and toward each other every day. Pete helps youth understand that we are ALL connected with each other and that the more we try to win over someone, the more we lose.

In the 35 years of service to youth Pete has gained just as much as he has given. Pete always says, “You would be amazed how much you get back when you let go – think about that and then feel it”.

Abi Smith, Pepperdine Waves Debate Team and Woodlake Elementary Debaters – “Faces of Change” Award

This group sponsored, created, organized, and produced a Pepperdine University debate on the question, “Can we imagine a world without bullying?” Through their efforts, they secured the support of the University and got credit for Pepperdine students who attended, created teams from the Pepperdine Waves Debate Team and Woodlake Elementary School who debated the premise, and promoted the event actively. 315 Pepperdine students attended and 100% commented that they learned something new about bullying.

Deborah Huffman– “Faces of Change” Award

Ms. Huffman coordinates and produces the AAU Journey Dancesport CA State Championships/West Coast AAU Junior Olympic Qualifier for Dancesport as well as the annual West Cost AAU Jr. Olympic Games for Dance (held in CA), where she has promoted bullying prevention in a world where it is not often talked about. Inspired to work on bullying prevention after her grandson died by suicide after relentless bullying, she has included bullying prevention materials in all events over the last two years, and created a fundraiser for NBPC at the West Coast AAU Junior Olympics qualifier & AAU California State Championships for Dancesport this past March (where dancers learned the “Unity Dance” – a PACER creation – and performed it on the competition dance floor). She is working with the AAU (Amateur Athletic Union) to encourage the topic of bullying prevention to be represented in all AAU sports.

Charles Kolin – “Together Against Bullying” Award

Riverhead Peacemakers – “United for Kindness” Award

Mr. Jamie Pernick & Mr. John Efthemis – “United for Acceptance” Award