Fairfax Educational Centers Host Payton’s Project Speakers for National Bullying Prevention Month
Sparkles! Early Learning Academy marked National Bullying Awareness Month with presentations for its before and after school care programs at its Fair Oaks and White Oaks locations. Elementary-age students at these centers heard from both adult and teen representatives of Payton’s Project, a local anti-bullying organization.
“Bullying should not be considered a ‘normal’ part of growing up. The toll it takes, in the form of lower self esteem, diminished academic performance and sometimes even depression and suicide, is just too high. And these negative effects can last a lifetime,” said Sparkles! Founder & CEO Sonia Valdizan. “At our academies, we can make a difference. Whether that is giving children the vocabulary and resources to report and stop bullying, or teaching would-be bullies healthier ways to express themselves.”
Payton’s Project was founded by the parents of Payton Freeze, a senior at Battlefield High School in Haymarket, VA, who committed suicide earlier this year after being bullied. “We don’t want any other parent to have to go through this,” her father, Brent Freeze, explained during an interview with NBC4. “It is our words, it is our actions, that cause people pain, and when we see it, we need to do something to try to stop that.”
Jenny Mischel, a former elementary school teacher and a doctoral student at George Mason University studying bullying prevention and recovery, addressed the school age children at Sparkles! at Fair Oaks. She was joined by Kourtney Regalado, a freshman at Battlefield, and a member of Payton’s Peers, student volunteers who provide support to children experiencing bullying. Regalado said she hopes to make a positive difference by sharing her experiences with others.
Sarah Peak, a seventh grader at Hampton Middle School in Woodbridge, VA and a Payton’s Peer, and Kari Tsutsumi, a Payton’s Project board member, visited with the school age students at Sparkles! at White Oaks. “I believe deeply in helping spread Payton’s message: a love for life and bestowing kindness on others,” says Tsutsumi.
Sparkles! is also a sponsor of the first annual Payton’s Project “Freeze Bullying Walk/Run/Roll,” on Oct. 29, which starts 8:30 am at Harris Pavilion in Manassas. The free event is designed to bring the community together to raise awareness of bullying and the harm it can cause. “Often, children who are bullied are afraid to speak up. Together, we can give them a voice, and let them know that there are people here who will listen and help. They are not alone,” said Valdizan.
To sign up to walk (or run, or roll) with Sparkles! staff during the event, visit www.bit.ly/FreezeBullying, or www.PaytonsProject.org to register individually. Information on all three Sparkles! locations–Fair Oaks, White Oaks and Crystal City–can be found at www.SparklesontheWeb.com or by calling 703-502-8100.