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Kindness Walk

The Guess Anti-Bullying Foundation is hosting the second Paducah Kindness Color Walk at 9 a.m. on Saturday, August 6, at Noble Park’s Greenway Trail. Registration opens at 8 a.m.

 

“The goal is to bring the entire community – students, parents, teachers, coaches, ministers, police, friends, neighbors and business leaders – together for a fun event to start the school year off with a focus on kindness,” said 13 year old co-founder Morgan Guess. “We intentionally planned a walk versus a run, as we wanted it to be fun and not competitive. It is about building friendships and opening a discussion about how kindness can lead the way to a better school culture.”

 

Morgan and her mother, Susan Guess, founded the Guess Anti-Bullying Foundation in 2012 as a result of Morgan’s personal experience with bullying. Since then, the duo have sponsored authors, filmmakers, and speakers at local schools. They spent the last year serving on the Governor’s Youth Bully Prevention Task Force.  They successfully lobbied the legislature for a bill to formally define bullying in Kentucky. Governor Matt Bevin signed the bill into law in April and the definitional will impact all 1,233 public schools and 640,000 Kentucky students.

 

A Kindness Wall will be available for participants to post positive messages.  Participants will be covered in color throughout the walk and a group color throw will end the event.  Kind messages will be visible throughout the trail.

 

Kitty Kindness, created by Folsom Puppets (founder of BobDog) will read a book about kindness to children at 8:30 a.m. The McCracken County High School co-ed cheerleading squad and the PTHS drumline will lead the start of the walk. Electric 96.9 will be playing music, the Paducah Bank Wow! Wagon will have free ice cream, and Pepsi is providing water.

 

“We have been able to make a positive difference because of the support our community has given us,” said Susan Guess. “While we believe the conversation is very different than it was when Morgan experienced bullying, there is more to do.  We continue to receive calls from parents and students about bullying — and about the depression and self-harming that can follow when the bullying goes unheard. Kids who afraid to not learn. We should never tolerate or turn our heads to bullying.  Bullying happens one act at a time and so does kindness.  We believe a focus on kindness is a positive and tangible way every member of our community can make a difference on this important issue.”

 

Morgan believes students must know that every member of the community is committed to being kind. “We can’t just tell students to be kind,” she said. “For young people to believe in kindness and to see its power, they must see it practiced by every adult around them as well.”

 

Organizers are asking for participants to bring school supplies which will be donated to the United Way “Stuff the Truck” project.

 

“Many students lack basic supplies such as paper and pencils during the school year. These donations will hopefully reassure students in need that their community cares about them and their education,” said Morgan. “It’s one more way that we can spread some kindness in our schools.”

 

Registration is $15 and includes a t-shirt for all participants who register by July 15. Shirts will be available for walk-up registrations on August 6 while supplies last. The registration form can be found at www.guessantibullying.com. Participants can also register electronically at http://www.123contactform.com/form-1517711/Paducah-Kindness-Color-Walk.  Questions can be sent to Susan Guess at susan@paducahbank.com.

 

The Foundation has already secured support from Baptist Health Paducah, Four Rivers Behavioral Health, Murray State University, West Kentucky Community and Technical College, McCracken County Schools, Paducah Public Schools, Computer Services Inc. (CSI), Paducah Bank, Lourdes Hospital, Mayor Kaler’s Youth Anti-Bullying Task Force, Bristol Broadcasting, and the Hancock Family (Justin, Sid, Will and Meg).

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2nd Annual Lunchroom Kindness Challenge Issued in Paducah

lunchroom challenge 2015The Guess Anti-Bullying Foundation and KennGrayHome.com are once again joining forces to challenge students to make school lunchrooms a bit more inclusive. The second annual Lunchroom Kindness Challenge is being launched this year in October to celebrate Bully Prevention month.

The Guess Anti-Bullying Foundation issued the first challenge last year after co-founder Morgan Guess was turned away from a table of her friends at lunch. They asked for a business partner to match their $250 reward, and interior designer Kenn Gray immediately offered his support.

“Students need to realize that they are the change-agents in their schools,” said Morgan Guess. “This is a chance for them to set a good example for their peers and create an environment of compassion, empathy and kindness.”

“We are working to make Paducah the kindest community in the nation,” said co-founder Susan Guess.  “We believe there is no better place to start than that of a school cafeteria. Because every school is different, we have identified new guidelines that will allow every student an opportunity to win the $500 this year.”

The rules allow a student to join the movement at any time. It will not matter if students are required to sit with just their own classes or can roam the entire cafeteria – everyone can participate. Students earn chances to win the $500 drawing every day by sitting with one new person. Once a student has sat with every available person within their school lunch rules, they are allowed to start over and sit with everyone again.

All students in private and public schools in Paducah and McCracken County are eligible to participate. To submit entries in the drawing for the prize money, students should email the date and person’s name that they lunched with each day to Susan Guess at susan@paducahbank.com by December 15. Each eligible submission will equal an entry in the drawing.

“Kenn Gray Home is thrilled to partner with such a forward thinking organization as the Guess Anti-Bullying Foundation,” said Gray.  “Our world becomes a more beautiful place when we design it as such. Just like making our homes a beautiful place to be, it is our JOB as people to make our world a beautiful place to be…and that starts with how we connect with others.”

1st Annual Paducah Kindness Color Walk

kindness walk image3The Guess Anti-Bullying Foundation is hosting the first annual Paducah Kindness Color Walk at 9 a.m. on Saturday, August 8, at Noble Park.  Participants will walk a route through the Greenway Trail.

 

“The goal is to bring the entire community – students, parents, teachers, and community members – together for a fun event to start the school year off with a focus on kindness,” said 12 year old co-founder Morgan Guess. “We intentionally planned a walk versus a run, as we wanted it to be fun and not competitive. It is about building friendships and opening a discussion about how kindness can lead the way to a better school culture.”

 

Morgan and her mother, Susan Guess, founded the Guess Anti-Bullying Foundation in 2011 as a result of Morgan’s personal experiences with bullying. Since then, the duo has raised over $50,000 for anti-bullying programs in local schools and brought several notable guest speakers to our area. It is their goal to raise awareness of the bullying crisis in our country and to work towards creating attitudes and behaviors of kindness in our schools.

 

“A new study was just released saying that bullying has decreased in our country,” Guess said. “We are happy to hear that news, but statistics still show that 1 out of every 5 students experience bullying. We believe that kindness needs to be practiced and talked about by all of us. We cannot expect our students to be kind if they aren’t seeing it mirrored by their teachers, their parents, their coaches, or at church.”

 

Organizers are asking for participants to bring school supplies which will be donated to the United Way “Stuff the Truck” project and shared with various shelters in the area where students go for help.

 

“Many students lack basic supplies such as paper and pencils during the school year. These donations will hopefully reassure students in need that their community cares about them and their education,” said Morgan. “It’s one more way that we can spread some kindness in our schools.”

 

Registration is $10 and includes a t-shirt for all participants who register by July 15. Shirts will be available for walk-up registrations on August 8 while supplies last. The registration form can be found at www.guessantibullying.com.  Questions can be sent to Susan Guess at susan@paducahbank.com.

 

The foundation has already secured support from McCracken County Schools, Paducah Public Schools, Murray State University, Folsom Puppets/Bob Dog, Computer Services Inc. (CSI), Paducah Bank, the McCracken County Library, the Mayor’s Youth Anti-Bullying Task Force, Global Wine and Spirits, Emerging Media Productions, and Bristol Broadcasting. Proceeds from the event will be used to provide anti-bullying resources and speakers to our area schools.

Lunchroom Kindness Challenge Winners Announced!

kindness challengeEmmy Seaton and Landon Lovell were recognized  on January 23rd for their commitment to making Paducah a kinder community through the Guess Anti-Bullying Foundation Lunchroom Kindness Challenge! The goal was to make as many new friends as possible by sitting with a different student during lunch each day. Participants kept logs of who they sat with and the one with the most names was the winner! Emmy won the $500 grand prize and Landon was awarded $100 for his good work as well.  Emmy is no amateur when it comes to kindness. At her young age, she’s already founded a “Kindness Club” at her school and undertaken numerous anti-bullying projects including an anti-bullying poster contest and the creation of a “Bully Box” which allows kids to safely and discretely report incidents of bullying at school. When asked what she planned to do with her winnings, she told us she wanted to give some to the Kindness Club, some to St. Jude Children’s Hospital, and use the rest to take her friends and teacher shopping! We are so proud of her work and can’t wait to see what the future holds for her!

Our thanks to our partner, Kenn Gray Home, for matching our $250 gift to Emmy. We appreciate Kenn and his support. Stay tuned for the 2nd Annual Lunchroom Kindness Challenge this fall!

Guess Anti-Bullying Foundation Bringing Kirk Smalley to Paducah

kirk smalley

Paducah, KY – The Guess Anti-Bullying Foundation will host Kirk Smalley, founder of “Stand for the Silent,” in Paducah on January 30. Smalley will speak with students at Lone Oak Middle School at 7:30 a.m. and at Paducah Middle School at 1:15 p.m. about the dangers of bullying and ways they can prevent it.

Kirk and his wife Laura began their crusade to end bullying in 2010 after the loss of their 11-year-old son, Richard Ty Field, to suicide as a result of relentless bullying. “One month and seven days after Ty died, I promised him that I will stop bullying in this world,” Smalley says. “I don’t break promises to my kid.”

Since then, they have committed themselves to speaking out against bullying at over 1,000 schools and community organizations, reaching over 1 million youths and adults in 39 states and 16 countries. In March 2011, Kirk and Laura met privately with President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama in The White House prior to attending the first ever White House conference on bullying.

Their story is also featured in the documentary “Bully,” directed by Lee Hirsch. The Guess Anti-Bullying Foundation, founded by Susan and Morgan Guess, won a free screening of the movie through a social media contest three years ago and brought Hirsch to Paducah for the screening as well.

“Hirsch’s movie and the stories told in it have been a significant source of inspiration for us,” according to Susan. “The message of hope is the common thread in his movie and in our work. Despite how serious the issue is and how many kids suffer in silence, we believe this message of hope and communities coming together will change this culture of cruelty.”

Morgan and Susan buy “Bully” movie educational toolkits for any school in Kentucky who will use them.

“Having people like Mr. Smalley and Mr. Hirsch come talk to kids about bullying can make a big difference in our schools,” says 11-year-old Morgan Guess. “Kids need to hear about the pain that their words and actions can cause others. It can mean life or death and can affect someone’s entire life. We can no longer remain silent when we see bullying.  We have to raise our voices, and when we do it together, we will make a difference.”

“It takes a lot of strength, takes a lot of courage to stand up for what’s right,” Smalley says. “I’m impressed with what Morgan has been able to overcome and accomplish at her age – having been bullied herself. I’m excited to meet her.”

This year, 13 million kids will be bullied across our country, and 160,000 kids will skip school each day because they are afraid of their bully. A teenager is bullied every seven seconds, and one out of every ten high school dropouts cites bullying as their reason for leaving school. Bullying has been shown to be a significant factor in teen suicide attempts. The percentage of Kentucky teens who attempt suicide each year exceeds the national average. Kids as young as seven-years-old are now self-harming. The Kennedy Center has declared bullying to be a human rights issue.

Creating an Anti-Bullying Campaign

More than 250,000 students are physically attacked in secondary schools each MONTH.

Susan Guess is a mother on a mission.

After her daughter experienced bullying earlier this year, Guess found herself at a bookstore looking for some poetry when she stumbled across a book that was out of place in the racks. “I truly believe the book found ME,” she says now of the incident. The book was written by Jodee Blanco, an author who suffered the abuse of bullying when she was a child. She is now a well-known speaker and consultant on the issue and Guess is trying to bring Blanco to Paducah to speak to students and parents on this pervasive issue.

It is estimated that 160,000 children miss school every day due to fear of attack or intimidation by other students. Approximately 1 in 7 students in grades K-12 is either a bully or a victim of bullying. Nearly 56% of students have personally witnessed some type of bullying at school. And about 15% of all school absenteeism is directly related to fears of being bullied at school.

“We have all become acutely aware of the devastating results of being bullied when we’ve seen media reports on national television about young people committing suicide, for example,” Guess relates. “After reading Blanco’s book, I was struck by a comment she makes about our roles as parents.” In her book Blanco writes, “For years I put up with the abuse, because my parents and my teachers told me to ‘ignore the bullies,’ don’t give them the satisfaction. Today, I think of all the adults who give kids the same advice. I still don’t understand the logic. We preach to our children not to be bystanders, that if you see someone getting picked on, stand up and defend that person, but if YOU’RE the one who’s being harassed, ignore it. Isn’t that a mixed message? It always made me wonder, why was I less worth defending than someone else?”

Guess is now working on the establishment of a fund-raising campaign so that the community can bring the noted author to the community for a speaking engagement and workshops with students, teachers, and parents. Guess has produced several YouTube videos on the subject and her daughter’s personal experiences and has created a Facebook page so that others can share their personal stories. She has been interviewed by WPSD and Murray State University as well as local radio. She is also working with other community organizations who can help to shed light on the subject.

The Market House Theatre’s Footlights class will be performing Bullies Anonymous this spring to raise awareness of bullying. The Carson Center’s Class Acts is in the process of planning a performance on the topic and Maiden Alley Cinema is creating a series of educational films this spring, one of which will deal with the issue of bullying.

“We saw the signs and we fought for our child’s rights,” Guess explains. “Many other students don’t have this level of advocacy for their plight. Our family believes that, together, we can effect a change in this situation for the safety and mental/emotional health of ALL students.”

Paducah Life

Huffington Post - The Worst of Times/The Best of Times

Morgan’s Story

 

I was eight years old. No one had ever hurt me intentionally. I had never kept a secret from my mom and I didn’t know what the word “clinically depressed” meant. I had just started third grade and I loved it. I got the teacher I wanted and all of my friends were in my class. I even met a new friend. She seemed really nice at first. But then she started wanting me to only play with her. She would try to keep me away from my other friends. Then she pulled my hair and pinched the back of my neck and was always following me around so that I was afraid to not do what she wanted to do. She would find me no matter where I went to get away from her.

School started not to be fun anymore. I was always worried about what she was going to do to me if I didn’t do what she said. I started having stomach pains every day and I felt nervous every morning. I didn’t tell anyone. I was afraid that would make it worse. I didn’t tell my mom. But she figured it out.

After that my mom helped me to figure out what to do. She explained that people aren’t always what they seem. She said bad things happen in life and we can choose to ignore it, blame others or be part of the solution. She said that together we could make things different for me and maybe even for other kids. I really liked that idea.

So we started to have events in our town and at our school and now we have met so many other girls and boys who have been bullied. And now I’m not taking any medicine. I know I can stand up for myself and be myself. And I know that one person can just be kind to one other person and it will change everything.

 

Susan’s Story

 

Fear began to creep into my heart. I knew something wasn’t right but I didn’t know what. My eight-year-old daughter was showing signs of reluctance about school, which was very unusual. She normally loved going to school and being with her friends. As it turned out one new friend in third grade was becoming a problem. We’ll call her Mary.

I, like most parents, do all I can to protect my child. When she was born I moved to a flexible work schedule so I could be with her before and after school. I volunteer, I work hard to make our time together meaningful and productive and my husband and I are devoted to quality family time. I, perhaps naively, thought I could protect her from the worst elements in the world.

One day I took refreshments to the playground and noticed a little girl with her hands always on Morgan — holding Morgan’s hand, fiddling with her hair, sort of leading her around. It made me somewhat uncomfortable but Morgan said nothing that caused me to be alarmed.

I started asking questions and began getting answers I didn’t like. So one day after picking Morgan up at school I asked her if Mary had ever done anything unkind to her. Morgan reached up from the back seat and pinched me hard behind the neck under my hair. Then she told me about the numerous control moves that Mary was using to try and control Morgan’s actions. I tried to remain calm but my heart was racing. My child was afraid at school and it seemed to be out of my control.

I spoke with school administrators and they promised to try and keep the girls apart. But the bullying continued. I soon witnessed the intimidation myself and it became apparent that the separation wasn’t an effective plan. Then Morgan began to talk about the fear and isolation she was feeling. Mary was racing to the playground so that she could separate all the other girls from Morgan. Her school work started to slip. Morgan started to have what her doctor termed as “stomach spasms” and panic attacks and eventually our pediatrician concluded that she was “clinically depressed.” He prescribed anti-depressants and suggested that we remove her from school describing her as emotionally unsafe there. But Morgan didn’t want to leave her school.

I remember asking Morgan how she felt when she felt her worst. She told me that she didn’t want to die because she was having a bad day. That was a startling statement for me. My brother, who was bulled also at the age of eight, took his own life at the age of 33. I knew we had to do something so that bullying didn’t have a devastating impact on my family once again.

While we will never forget this painful experience, we will not let it define us. We are not victims. We are change agents. This unfortunate experience has now made us better people and, we hope, people who can make the world better for our child and other children around our community and our country.

There were people who disappointed us because they let fear get in the way of protecting a child. There were those who believed we were making a school look bad and I could feel the undercurrent of wishing I would stop talking. There were times when their rhetoric crept into my mind and I began to question myself. I realize now that this is all a part of a cycle of bullying that we have to fight through.

We have learned many lessons these past two years. The greatest lesson is that we now understand that we have a voice, and we can use it for good. We can make a difference.
We are now focused on our interactions with other people. We work to make sure people feel good and happy when they are with us. We reach out to spread kindness, recognizing they are small acts with a powerful impact when they are multiplied.

Bullying changed our lives forever; thankfully not in a tragic way. We are so very grateful that our story has a happy ending. Others have not been so fortunate. That is why we believe, with our whole hearts, that each of us has a stake in this cultural revolution. The world can be a kinder place. We believe that begins with us.

This post is part of a series produced by The BULLY Project in conjunction with National Bullying Prevention Month. For more information on The BULLY Project, click here.

 

Huffington Post

Paducah Kindness Council moves forward with plans

It’s easier to promote kindness than it is anti-bullying, which is why the Paducah Kindness Council is working to find ways for the people in Paducah to spread kindness.

For the third time the group, which is open to the public, met to talk about the three areas they want to focus on: community, schools, and social media.

Each group of people have come up with two future projects they’ll plan to spread kindness in Paducah.

The community group is planning a Kindness Day. The schools group would like to see every school have their own kindness council made up of students. St. Mary’s fourth grader Trinity Higgins says it works.

“We picked people to be on our kindness council and we have about like 15 or 20 people and we come up with ideas for our school,” she said.

The social media group might have the toughest job since the internet is a place many bullies reign because they can while being anonymous. Taylor Blessest said she personally sees it all the time.

“They post some bad pictures,” she said. “They say some rude stuff to people that have caused a lot of bad things like suicide and more bullying and stuff.”

To combat it she’s working on the Kindness Council to have positive pages and create a hashtag people can use to show off their acts of kindness in the community.

The members know they have a lot of work to do, but believe the more people who get involved the stronger they will become.

The Paducah Kindness Council was formed by mother-daughter team Susan and Morgan Guess.

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