An all-school assembly at Florence-Carlton launched the school's Bullying Prevention program with a roar on Thursday when two custom motorcycles raced into the new Florence gym full of cheering students.
“Flash,” founder of Bikers Against Bullies USA - a national nonprofit organization - spoke with students about respect, freedom, diversity and making good choices in life.
One example was two pieces of paper; one crumpled and the other smooth.
“The crumpled paper is bullying and rude behavior. Tomorrow I could say ‘I’m sorry’ and be your best friend, but I’ll never be able to take the creases out of the paper,” Flash said. “We can apologize but the damage is done.”
Country singer Jared Blake, who was on the first season of The Voice, performed four songs and talked with the students about the importance of making good decisions and looking toward the future.
Blake said he made some poor decisions in the past, but today focuses on the positive actions he's undertaken.
When the younger students left the gym, the talk turned more challenging. Blake asked middle school and high school students about their heroes, and the students said they mainly were parents and teachers.
“In over 300 schools, no student has said they admire someone for their big house, fast car or wealth,” Blake said. “Every student has talked about someone who has cared for them and taught them about respect and hard work. In 20 years, will you have people say the same things about you?”
Blake encouraged the older students to be kind to the younger students.
“You’re the heroes to the littlest of this school,” he said. “Live to be what you want, look at what you want to be, and figure out how to become that. Be inspiring and pay it forward.”
The student body reacted with standing ovations and cheers.
After the assembly “Flash” said the Bikers Against Bullies USA performs for more than 300 assemblies each year. They had performed in Alberton Thursday morning.
“We do this because kids keep learning,” Flash said. “Officially, Bikers Against Bullies USA started with a Facebook page and one ‘like’ from my 6-year-old. Now we have over 14,000 riders in 30 states and everyone is trying to make a difference.”
He said the number one message to parents is to be present for their children.
“The mission of Bikers Against Bullies USA is to empower kids and teach them how to embrace their diversity and respect other people’s diversity,” Flash said.
Bikers Against Bullies is performing a concert today, Sept. 9, in Missoula that benefits families in the Bitterroot Valley who have been affected by the Lolo Peak Fire. The funds will be distributed through The 406 Family Aid Foundation that was formed in 2008.
“We need to step up for these people - we are Montanans,” Flash said. “The concert will be in the Grizzly Harley Davidson (5106 E. Harrier Drive in Missoula) – gates open at 5 p.m., music starts at 6:15 p.m. with three bands. We are going to help our neighbors.”
Middle School Counselor Alli Bristow said the Bikers' message integrated well with the Olweaus Bullying Prevention program the school implemented last year.
“We did a bullying assembly late last year and the teachers have been through trainings,” she said. “Teachers have classroom meetings with small groups of students with guided lessons about building relationships and fostering trust between students.”
Bristow said the anti-bullying program is exciting.
“The kids feel good about it and we have received good commends from parents,” she said. “Kids have told teachers ‘Thank you for this - I have a voice and feel that people are listening.’"
They've also told her they feel more supported and are more likely now to say they or their friends need help.
Watch the Bikers Against Bullies USA video at https://youtu.be/yX8ODlE1Xpg