Student athletes launch community outreach program against bullying


Source: Marisa Bast

Senior softball player Marisa Bast and sophomore football player Max Chapman speak with students at Haven Middle School. Bast and Chapman are two of 25 student athletes participating in ROARR, a community outreach program intended to raise awareness about bullying.

Amy Whyte, Assistant Campus Editor

Northwestern student athletes traveled to Haven Middle School two days this week to speak about the importance of respect and preventing bullying.

The sessions were part of Stand Up and Reach Out and Reinforce Respect, a new community service program developed by SESP senior Marisa Bast. The program launched this week with sessions at the school, located at 2417 Prairie Ave., Monday and Wednesday.

Bast, who plays softball at NU, said she originally came up with the idea for Stand Up and ROARR while trying to figure out what she would do as her field study for the Undergraduate Leadership Program. She approached Maureen Palchak, the assistant athletic director for community relations, about potentially doing something through the athletic department.

“I met with Maureen and I talked to her and told her that I want to work with kids and I want to make a difference, and I left it broad at that, and she brought up this idea of bullying,” Bast said.

Palchak said she had been thinking of starting some form of anti-bullying program after a parent approached her earlier this year about getting student athletes to speak with her child, who was having some issues at school.

“After that I started doing a lot of research, started reading a lot more and paying attention to bullying specifically, and it’s such a huge topic,” Palchak said. “I realized student athletes really do have a powerful voice. They’re role models for a lot of these kids.”

After the initial meeting, Palchak and Bast said they decided to go beyond just meeting Bast’s field study requirement and instead develop a program in hopes of making a real impact on the community.

“When we put our heads together and realized the potential for this organization and this program we got really excited and just worked together really, really well,” Palchak said.

After reaching out to other student athletes through their email list, Bast said she was able to get together a group of 25 student athletes who were interested in being a part of the program. From there, she said they began brainstorming how they could teach kids about bullying and what their curriculum should be. Bast said they decided to keep the activities as interactive as possible to keep students engaged in the program.

Activities include true-or-false and matching games about bullying and an icebreaker activity to help students get to know each other. Weinberg junior Amy Letourneau, a softball player, said the icebreaker activity was beneficial for the students because it helped them find what they had in common with each other.

“The kids were able to see that maybe they’re not best friends with all the kids or they don’t know the kids that well, but they all do have different things in common,” she said.

Though it has only been to Haven Middle School so far, the group hopes to bring the program to other middle and elementary schools in the Evanston area. Palchak said the team will go to Lincolnwood Elementary School next week, and she hopes to expand from there. Bast plans on developing a web portal so that schools that are interested in participating in the program can sign up online.

“I want to create a sustainable program,” Bast said. “I want this to continue for years to come. I want to come back for my 10-year reunion and really see how this program spreads.”

In addition to educating kids about bullying, Bast said she hopes the program will instill the values of respect and teamwork.

“If we can even prevent maybe one bullying incident per school and really change some numbers here or just spread awareness or empower these kids to stand up and make a difference, then my goal will be accomplished,” she said.

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