Acts of kindness and anti-bullying stances were once again the basis for student of the month selections at Wellington High School.
Freshman Ethan Burns, sophomore Cassidy Smith, junior Ryan Whitaker, and senior Logan Ferguson secured October’s honors for what principal Tina Drake described as going above and beyond what’s asked.
Drake said Burns constantly looks out for students who are short on everyday supplies like pencils and notebooks.
“I love to help anyone I can and I don’t like to see people needing something,” Burns said. “I’ll give them anything they need to succeed and I want that to pass on to other people so no one is falling behind. I’ve shared my math book, my phone, and pretty much anything if someone really needed it.”
Smith has made an effort to reach out to new students, saying none should feel left out and all should know they can talk to anyone. “I just like making new friends and I don’t want anyone to think there aren’t friends available for them when they don’t know anyone,” she said.
Whitaker is a regular tutor for fellow chemistry students with Drake commending his patience and ability to instruct.
“There was someone in particular struggling in my class. He talked with me about it, and I was happy to oblige,” he said. “Whether it’s with class assignments, or anything, it’s just good to be courteous whether you know someone or not. You don’t know how their day is going or what they’re dealing with.”
Ferguson is a member of the school’s anti-bullying Friends of Rachel club and Students Against Destructive Decisions. He’s frequently spoken out upon witnessing bullying, Drake said.
Saying “excuse me” or “thank you” are little touches that make a big difference, he said: “They add up after a while.”
Some recent studies suggest bullying among teens is common because, while they’re becoming more physically mature, they haven’t developed a full sense of empathy. According to a six-year study published in Developmental Psychology, “cognitive empathy,” meaning the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes, begins to fully develop in girls at age 13 and boys at age 15.
However, from ages 13 to 16, boys in the study showed a temporary decline in “affective empathy,” or the ability to read and respond to others’ feelings.
“Honestly, I was made fun of when I was little,” Ferguson said. “You have to be a brave person to get through stuff like that no matter how old you are. If you think someone lacks empathy, show them an example of the effects words and bullying can have. You can still end up spreading positivity even if no one spread it to you when you needed it.”
These remarks come as the district faces mounting concerns regarding bullying and student mental health.
Earlier this month, Kenneth McKinley and a group of WHS students spoke behind closed doors with school board members regarding instances of bullying, intimidation, and harassment.
McKinley said those instances contributed to the death of his son, WHS freshman Tyson McKinley, who took his own life Sept. 20. On May 19, 2016, 17-year-old WHS junior Josh Byers also ended his own life.
Jonathan Delozier can be reached at 440-647-3171 or @DelozierNews on Twitter.