Turlock Junior High School in California has been enrolled in the No Bully Program since 2018. Students and staff have taken the program to new levels through their Peace Ambassadors club and their annual No Bully peace summits. In this story of change, we take a look at how the school has taken the No Bully System and used it to transform their school, drawing on an interview we conducted with the school counsellors, Sandra Ortega-Ramos and Kristen Norman.
Turlock Junior High School ran its first peace summit in 2019. It went so well that those involved in the program decided to expand it by creating a Peace Ambassadors club. They wanted to appeal to students interested in promoting values of kindness, acceptance, and inclusion, and those eager to spread awareness about the effects of bullying. Five years later and the club is still running. Its members meet at least twice a month and engage in a range of activities and events aligned with encouraging respect and reducing bullying on campus.
We asked Sandra what motivates people to join. She said that students enjoy joining in with lunchtime activities and being part of something that’s making a difference. She added that some join because they have been a victim of bullying and want to make friends and surround themselves with positive people. Kristen continued, saying that those who participate as Peace Ambassadors are strong characters who really believe in bringing people together and promoting inclusion and kindness in their school environment.
The annual Peace Summit is an integral event organised by the staff and students in the Peace Ambassadors club. The school began holding these events in person but had to switch to video with the onset of the pandemic. However, this turned out to be a positive change as it meant recorded events could be shared among peers and on their website, allowing them to communicate the benefits of the program with the wider school and community.
Last year’s summit provided students with the freedom to talk about what they wanted to at whichever level they were comfortable with. Many read original poems or those written by others that resonated with them. Others gave informative presentations or shared their own experiences with bullying and how joining the Peace Ambassadors empowered them, introduced them to new friends and – ultimately – gave them a sense of belonging.
Sandra and Kristen also reflected on how being part of the club had impacted its members, with many going on to become leaders in their high schools, taking on various roles and engaging with projects that enable them to promote values of inclusion and gratitude. They agreed that by reflecting on the positive change they had created, they were able to deepen their desire to reinforce that in different areas of their lives. Additionally, being a part of positive change meant that other students found inspiration in the Peace Ambassadors and began to look to them as role models.
Since the Peace Ambassadors club was established four years ago, Kristen said there has been a shift in the culture on campus. There has been more inclusion, students supporting each other, and an increased focus on the importance of connection.
“The No Bully Program is what started it all. This definitely wouldn’t be happening now if we hadn’t been introduced to the program or undertaken the training. Our initial training was about solution teams and how to address bullying that’s occurring, but then we branched out. We are still doing those things but our focus now is how we can change our school to make it a better, more positive and inclusive place and create a school culture built on empathy.”
Students are using their roles as Peace Ambassadors to bring attention to other important changes they’d like to see, such as the need to focus on diverse cultures within the school. They noticed that bullying on campus often tends to affect those of different races or cultures. This year, the school introduced Multicultural Awareness Week, an event dedicated to sharing positive traditions and encouraging respect, which students in the club helped to organise.
Sandra and Kristen offer sage advice for schools considering starting a similar club or holding Peace Summits of their own. Sandra emphasises the importance of starting early and giving ample time for planning, as this ensures participants have the time to understand the purpose and the message they want to deliver. Kristen suggests letting students be as creative as they want, adding that students at Turlock Middle School came up with ideas beyond anything they could have imagined. Allowing them to take ownership makes it become their own project, something they’re passionate about and feel proud of.
It’s a powerful example of how the No Bully program can be used to bring about positive change in school cultures and the mindsets of students as individuals. We look forward to seeing what the future holds for the school and the incredible Peace Ambassadors dedicating their time to shaping a better future.
Turlock Junior High School was recently awarded the No Bully School Badge for its commitment to being bully-free. You can see one of their peace summits here. To find out about the No Bully program and how to bring No Bully to your school visit here.