Program helps MCHS students break down social barriers | CraigDailyPress.com

Program helps MCHS students break down social barriers

Lauren Blair

Participants from the "If You Really Knew Me" program display their transformations on stage at Moffat County High School during an assembly held to celebrate the completion of the program. A total of 300 MCHS students participated in the program this fall, which is designed to foster understanding and connection between students.

— Moffat County High School students convened in the auditorium Thursday with an air of camaraderie and celebration.

They were there to mark the completion of "If You Really Knew Me," a program designed to give kids the chance to break down social barriers and develop understanding for each other, with the intended side effect of reducing bullying.

The program ran every Monday throughout October and November, with more than 300 students electing to participate.

"It's been my dream for two years to get this into the school," Craig City Council member and Apostolic Lighthouse Church pastor Tony Bohrer told students Thursday. "We did it, and I feel like it was a huge success."

Bohrer began working to get the program into MCHS last spring, when he convinced school board members and administrators to do a trial run with about 70 students.

Junior Rebekah Bird was among that group of students, and was also an early advocate for the program at school board meetings last spring.

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"It seriously changed my life," Bird said. "It really opened me up to know peoples' stories."

Bird said it also helped her open up about her own story, including losing her mother.

"Knowing that other people have gone through the same thing as I have, I didn't know anyone else in school had lost their mom or a parent," Bird said.

She was surprised to learn that a friend of hers had also lost a parent during an activity in the program called "cross the line."

"I used to judge a lot of people," especially based on their dress, Bird said. "When I walk around the halls now, I think, 'well, what's their story?' There's way more to them than how they dress."

Bohrer saw big transformations in many of the students who went through the program, as a stronger bridge of understanding was formed between kids who normally would have never talked to each other.

"One of the greatest lessons and most impacting moments was really hearing these kids' stories," Bohrer said. "Some of them rip your heart out and other are great success stories."

Bohrer described sometimes seeing more fortunate students put their arms around other students who shared stories of difficult home lives, loss or struggle.

Both Bohrer and MCHS Counselor Paula Duzik hope that the completion of the program is only the beginning of a larger movement in the school.

"I have found with a lot of students, a common theme is isolation. I think that has to do with social media," Duzik said. "There's a lot of loneliness in kids. This is a good start in connecting kids to each other."

Bohrer will build on his efforts next semester with Club Oxygen, which he hopes to convene once per week during lunch at MCHS as well as after school once per month, with room to grow into a weekly after-school program.

"We don't want it to end," Bohrer said. "It's a movement, a revolution. We're changing the minds of high schoolers."

Contact Lauren Blair at 970-875-1794 or lblair@CraigDailyPress.com or follow her on Twitter @CDP_Education.