This column is addressed to all students heading back to school some time in the next few weeks.
You have the power to help make a difference in the lives of all of those around you. It may sound scary but you can do it.
You can take stand against bullying.
Of course, it's easier to stay silent, to try to blend into the surroundings when you hear someone else being put down or pushed around. It's frightening to draw the attention to yourself and run the risk of becoming the focus of the bully yourself.
It may seem easier to go along with "the crowd" but here's another way to look at it: If enough of people who believe in the right of others not to be picked stand together, the bullies will soon be outnumbered.
The people who show tolerance and have compassion soon will BE "the crowd."
Self-preservation is an admirable quality, but if things are going to change, a person just has to step up to do something when another is being insulted or tormented.
Which is why this appeal is being made. Those insults don't need to be uttered. Those pushes, shoves and trips don't need to happen. We need to learn to tolerate and appreciate the differences in each other rather than wanting everyone to conform.
The harassment a bully or a "mean girl" dishes out is more far reaching today than any time in history with the Internet and its social networking sites as the latest, most invasive tools. It might seem a minor thing to write an insult about someone else, but cybertaunts can wound just as deeply as words spoke in person.
And cyberbullying can reach around the globe in an instant.
If we'd all step up to protect one another, the world would be a better place instantly.
This is the start of a new school year and it can be the best year ever for everyone if each person would pledge a no-tolerance attitude toward bullying.
Those who bully have deep-seated emotional problems themselves. We never really know the challenges other people are dealing with at home. And there is a theory that in cutting down someone else, an insecure person feel boosted.
Compassion toward a bully could be step toward helping that person heal. But it must be emphasized that, whatever his or her circumstance, no one has the right to belittle, insult, torment or injure another person. It's not "just teasing". It's not just "kids being kids." It's cruelty.
The younger generation has a chance to make youth a better time for everyone, to help each person walk away with a diploma, carrying a load of good memories instead of times they'd rather forget.
Make friends with someone who seems to always be alone. Talk to the kid who no one talks to. Stand up to bullies and stand together to make your school a place everyone wants to be.
(Psst ... Those words apply to adults and the workplace as well.)
You really do have the power: Use it wisely.
Renee Prusi can be contacted at 906-228-2500, ext. 253. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.