Students signing the pledge to be an agent of change!

Listen to the interview below as Renee interviews Dave Director, owner of CT Lighting Centers and Chairman of the Council of Business Partners, as well as Cynthia Clegg, President and CEO of the Community Foundation, and Sheryl Sprague, Prevention Manager at Rushford Healthcare.

Students, educators, business owners and community leaders came out in record numbers to rally for bully-free communities at the EMPOWER Leadership Sports Center in Middletown on October 5, in recognition of National Bullying Prevention Awareness Month. Organized by the Community Foundation of Middlesex County (CFMC) and its Council of Business Partners, the fourth annual Rally for Bully-Free Communities included team building activities, guest speakers, pledge taking, and the presentation of the Bully-Free Community Spotlight Award before a crowd of more than 400 people. 

In attendance were student leaders and peer advocates from Region 4 Schools including Chester Elementary, Deep River Elementary, Essex Elementary, John Winthrop Middle School, and Valley Regional High School; Haddam-Killingworth Middle School; East Hampton Middle School; Middletown Schools including Farm Elementary, Spencer Elementary, Snow Elementary, Keigwin Middle School, Woodrow Wilson Middle School, and Middletown High School; Xavier High School; Cheshire’s Highland Elementary and Chapman Elementary schools; and Smith Middle School in Glastonbury. Participants from Rushford Academy and MARC Community Services also attended. The morning program included team-building and self-empowering activities led by the staff at EMPOWER Leadership Sports; First Tee of Connecticut; Rushford; members of the Middletown Fire Department and the Middletown Police K-9 unit; and Community Foundation of Middlesex County volunteers. 

Mike Cicarella, a student at Dag Middle School in Wallingford, spoke about how he worked through a difficult family crisis by initiating a gratitude campaign at his school, and encouraging others to look for the good as a way of dealing with emotional challenges. 

Dave Director, Chairman of the CFMC Council of Business Partners, and Dave Maloney, Director of Student

Activities for the Connecticut Association of Schools, presented Essex Elementary School with the Bully-Free Community Spotlight Award in recognition of the school’s ongoing work building positive personal relationships and maintaining a mindset throughout the building that features deeply held beliefs that drive behavior, habits, and preferred ways of learning. 

“Mindful Mondays” and daily “Mindful Moments” fire up faculty and students alike to know each other well and build group cohesion, trust, and a sense of belonging to the school’s mission. With a culture centered around individual uniqueness, diversity, acceptance and kindness, the school’s  social development program ‘looks for the good’ in every aspect of their comprehensive outreach and features a “Book of the Month”, “Social Thinking”, and “Positive Behavior Support” initiatives.     Sportscaster and former NBA/UCONN Basketball star Donny Marshall, the campaign’s spokesperson,  shared his personal experiences as a victim of bullying, wrapping up the day’s events by leading the crowd in reciting of the campaign pledge, which promises to be an agent of change and stand up to mean-spirited behavior. For more information on the Campaign for Bully-Free Communities, go to BullyFreeMiddlesexCountyCF.org or call the Community Foundation of Middlesex County at 860-347-0025. 

 The Campaign for Bully-Free Communities 

The campaign rallies Middlesex County residents, businesses, municipalities, school districts, libraries and other community organizations to take a pledge to stand together against bullying and all mean-spirited behavior, and highlights the school-based No Bully Zone Program, underwritten by the Council of Business Partners Fund created through CFMC. Through partnership with the Connecticut Association of Schools (CAS); EMPOWER Leadership Sports; The First Tee of Connecticut; Rushford, A Hartford Healthcare Partner; iCRV Radio; and former NBA and UCONN basketball player Donny Marshall, the impact of the program continues to expand to more school systems and more community members.   with impressive results to date:  

 -Over $60,000 has been invested in bullying prevention awareness and training programs; 

-More than 9,500 students, educators, parents, and bus drivers have participated in prevention training; -More than 1,000 community members have signed a pledge to be an agent of positive change. 

The Community Foundation of Middlesex County (CT) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the quality of life in Middlesex County. Its two-fold mission is: (1) to work with charitably-minded individuals and organizations to build permanent endowments and other charitable giving funds; and (2) to support local nonprofit organizations through effective grant making and multiple programs to address community needs. Since its founding in 1997, the Community Foundation has invested more than $4.7 million through 1,564 grants in support of the arts, cultural and heritage programs, educational activities, environmental improvements, and for health and human services. For more information on the Campaign for Bully-Free Communities, go to bullyfreemiddlesexcountycf.org or call the Community Foundation of Middlesex County at 860-347-0025. 

The CFMC Council of Business Partners includes: A&A Office Systems; A.R. Mazzotta Employment Specialists;

Belltown Motors; BEST Cleaners; Black Seal Restaurant; Brown & Brown of CT, Inc.; Connecticut Lighting Centers, Inc.;

Direct Energy; East Hampton Rotary Foundation, Inc.; Essex Printing/Events Magazines; St. Mary Church in Portland and

Congregation Adath Israel in Middletown of the Interfaith Golf Open Tournament; LiveKind; Mahoney Sabol & Co., LLP; Malloves Jewelers; M & J Bus Company, Inc.; Paulson Training Programs, Inc.; Attorney Nancy Raczka; The Rossi Group; Suburban Stationers, Inc.; and Elizabeth Shulman, LMFT.    

 The No Bully Zone Program 

In 2009, working through the Community Foundation of Middlesex County, the Council of Business Partners Fund was established and with the help of Rushford, a Hartford Healthcare Partner, the “No Bully Zone” program was developed and funded. Council members contribute annually and, to date, the partnership has implemented the No Bully Zone Program in

Keigwin Middle and Woodrow Wilson Middle schools in Middletown; in the Haddam-Killingworth school district; in

Oddfellows Playhouse and Ivoryton Playhouse projects; The Country School; and in conjunction with The First Tee of

Connecticut youth programs. The program was adapted for school bus travel on buses operated by M&J Bus Inc. with over 470 drivers receiving training. It is now being implemented in the East Hampton school system with support from the Shulman Family Fund and the East Hampton Rotary Club Foundation.  

 Bully-Free Community Spotlight Award 

All Connecticut schools are mandated to have a school climate plan in place that provides for a safe and POSITIVE learning environment. Programs like the No-Bully Zone are of great value because they help students help each other recognize when a person is being targeted and intentionally hurt or harmed by words or behavior, and gives them the tools to stand up for themselves or intervene on others behalf in a positive way.  Student education on how to address bullying for peers is critical, as is the support of adults. The Bully-Free Community Spotlight Award is a one way to recognize those who are focused on creating healthy, positive, empowering environments in which to learn. The award is given annually to a school, organization, or individual that has implemented or supported a positive and safe learning environment program.  To date, the Bully-Free Community Spotlight Award has been presented Chester Elementary School, Woodrow Wilson Middle School in Middletown, Westbrook High School, Donny Marshall, the Ivoryton Playhouse, Broadway actor Douglas Lyons, M & J Bus Company, and Essex Elementary School.