May 8, 2014

Penn students help 'Break the Wall' of cyber-bullying

By JONATHAN R. PITMAN The Oskaloosa Herald
The Oskaloosa Herald

---- — OSKALOOSA— William Penn University students gathered at the Smokey Row Coffee Shop Monday to “Break the Wall” of cyber-bullying in an effort to raise awareness about the issue and its effects.

Now in its second year, the program gives Penn University students the ability to discover their talents and get involved in community service.

Professor of Communications Matt Wagner said, “We tried this with our social media class last spring and we decided to continue the program and the support was overwhelming.”

Wagner also said once Penn University students saw the reaction from the Oskaloosa Middle School and Oskaloosa High School it seemed to have a real and profound impact.

“We were invited to speak to sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders along with high schools students,” Wagner said.

Inside the restaurant, there were cameras set up by Penn University students who began filming the event. The wall contained signatures and messages that were placed on a wall. Before the wall was broken, students Charlie Comfort, Cierra Threats, Harry Starks and Amanda Hulen from the college gave a short speech. Penn University sophomore student Cierra Threats, educated the audience by providing statistics.

“Fifty-Five percent of all teens have reported that they have encountered some form of cyber bullying,” she said.

There were message on the wall that were so graphic, it could not be read aloud. Penn University senior student Charlie Comfort said he felt it was important to raise awareness and had his own philosophy when it came to rising to the cause.

“I wanted to see the board members and administrators to see what we can do more of to prevent this from occurring,” he said.

Comfort also said the students in Wagner’s class have been planning this event for months.

“[I believe] the event was well received at the schools,” Comfort said.

Senior Chris Crawford was another individual who was glad to be apart of the event and showed his support to help express his concerns about the effects of social media as it pertains to cyber-bullying. “We started this campaign to reduce the risks of cyber-bullying in the hopes of focusing on a different group of people and that bullying of any kind is not the way to go. By breaking the wall of bullying it shows that it is possible,” Crawford said.

Crawford gave an example of an instance where he interacted with a high school student briefly that was down because of cyber-bullying.

“I helped her and let her know that there is hope,” he said.

Herald City Editor Jonathan R. Pitman can be reached by email at news2@oskyherald.com