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San Diego Middle School Students Turn Their Lens To Bullying

Above: Students attend an AjA Project photography class at Monroe Clark Middle School in March 2012.

A dozen students at Monroe Clark Middle School in City Heights spent three months documenting bullying incidents on their campus in hopes of opening the eyes of their peers and teachers to stop the hatred.

“A girl sat down at lunch and everyone got up and left. ‘She’s not cool, she’s unpopular. She’s not welcome in the group. She’s not accepted,’” the students wrote in one of their observations.

The middle schoolers are part of the AjA Project photography program that teaches youth to turn the lens outward and examine community issues that affect their daily lives.

“Using photography as a starting point to talk about these things is really powerful,” said Jena Olson, AJA project leader. “We use photography as a way for kids to express themselves, to express their experiences, and be able to process their experiences in a different way.”

Special Feature Speak City Heights

Speak City Heights is a media collaborative aimed at amplifying the voices of residents in one of San Diego’s most diverse neighborhoods. (Read more)

Students were tasked with mapping out where they observed bullying at their school, writing a description of what occurred and taking a photo at that location, said Olson.

“I get to show my own perspective ways of bullying,” said 6th grader Tsega Weldemarial “Not just the victims but the people who are hurting them too. And I can show where did someone get bullied and focus on how less bullying can happen.”

Kassandra Ellias, 12, said kids face bullying all too often in what should be the protective confines of their school. “People are getting bullied for different kinds of reasons, like they’re different or they choose to have a different way. And they’re picked on for that,” said Ellias.

Efforts to combat bullying nationwide have recently taken on greater urgency. The documentary “Bully” was recently released, detailing children’s experiences with bullying. It has prompted states to require anti-bullying programs in public schools.

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