Published March 3, 2014 in the Rutland Herald
Albert J. Marro / Staff Photo
Below, Melanie Hubbard makes a presentation on cyberbullying to middle school students at Rutland Town School where she once attended. She is currently a senior at Rutland High School.
Student starts anti-bullying campaign
ARutland High School senior is using online social media to combat cyberbullying.
Seventeen-year-old Melanie Hubbard visited Rutland Town School last week to speak with sixth-, seventh- and eight-graders about the dangers of social media and her creation of a new club at the high school to combat bullying online. Hubbard said she wants to turn a negative conversation into a positive one.
“I think cyberbullying is a huge issue,” said Hubbard, who recently found herself the subject of negative comments on Twitter. While being criticized online is an all-too-common experience for many high school students, her response was quite unique.
Rutland High School offers a global studies program, in which students are challenged to take a global issue or problem that has affected them personally and create some sort of plan in response. Hubbard founded “Cyber You,” a school club currently with 10 members across grades nine through 12 who are passionate about ending Internet bullying.
The topic is quite relevant for Rutland Town School students, said Principal Aaron Boynton.
“This is an important issue to teach our kids about, and with the fact we are incorporating technology so much here at Rutland Town School, we want to make sure they know how to use technology responsibly,” Boynton said.
Hubbard began her presentation with a discussion of social media in general, which, in addition to Twitter, can include Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram, which, from a show of hands, appears to be the most popular form among Rutland Town School students.
“Social networking has a lot of benefits, but unfortunately, the negative effects of social media outweigh the benefits,” Hubbard said, as she discussed the results of a survey she conducted of her fellow high school students.
The numbers are not surprising, but that doesn’t make them any less disturbing: 47 percent of students access social media more than 10 times a day. Even worse, three in 10 students access social media during class, with 79 percent of students using their mobile phones to go online.
Hubbard pointed to a study, which shows a user of social media is accessing a portion of the brain that is not used for such things as memorization. In short, not only is it a distraction, but social media literally makes it harder to learn.
Hubbard warned that privacy protocols vary greatly across social media services. For example, a Facebook user can block a fellow user and, in effect, become invisible. Twitter, on the other, allows one user to block another, but the blocked person can still use the search function to read a person’s messages.
Hubbard also talked about the permanent nature of the Internet.
“It’s not like passing a note in class that you can crumple up and throw away,” she said. “Your posts are out there in cyberspace forever. Years from now, do you really want people to read your negative comments?”
Cyber You has taken the fight to the Internet. They have a website — cyberyou.weebly.com — as well as a Facebook page and a Twitter account, @cyber_you.
Great job, Melanie.
College scholarship opportunity
Whether you want to study construction, music, fish and game management or holistic health, chances are there’s a scholarship that could help fund your education.
The Vermont Student Assistance Corp. administers more than 160 scholarships for state organizations and individuals looking to help worthy students in their local communities or who share a common academic pursuit. But students need to act fast. The deadline for applying for the 2014-15 academic year is Friday.
“VSAC is the one-stop source for students and their families when it comes to talking about and financing education and training after high school,” said Scott Giles, president and CEO. “The scholarships that VSAC administers are a real benefit to accomplished students with academic goals in mind.”
Information on available scholarships and eligibility can be found in VSAC’s online brochure, “Scholarships for Vermonters,” available at vsac.org. VSAC also has links to complete the online Unified Scholarship Application, or USA, and any required transcripts, recommendations or other documentation can be uploaded right at the VSAC website. For more information, call (888) 253-4819.
The Stafford Technical Center is holding its annual open house from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday. Future students, parents, and community members are invited to tour the facility, visit Stafford’s 15 different technical education programs and speak with the instructors. For more information on the open house call, 770-1033.
This will be my last school column. Attentive readers might have noticed that during the past month, I have been filing stories on education issues happening at the State House in Montpelier. Following town meeting Tuesday, that move will be permanent as I join the Vermont Press Bureau full time. I would like to thank the people who have written me during the past year, giving me the opportunity to let my readers know about the good things happening in our schools. And to my readers, I thank you for giving me the chance to grow as a writer.