Dan Maruccia, a lawyer with Lozano Smith Attorneys headquartered in Sacramento, presented a $500 check to Chester Elementary School on Jan. 23.
The Lozano Smith Foundation Award is given in recognition to California schools that are involved in anti-bullying education programs.
The “Signature Award” endowment runs statewide, Maruccia explained to the students who sat on the gymnasium floor during the morning assembly together with their teachers to hear how their anti-bullying efforts were an important part of their education.
“It’s a great honor for me to be here today,” he said, “to recognize your school with this award for raising awareness and demonstrating your concerns on the issue of bullying.”
He said that his law firm awards money to schools from Redding to San Diego that make a special effort to address the issues of bullying, with dozens of nominations for this year’s program, “of which six school districts were chosen to receive an award, including Chester Elementary and Plumas Unified.”
Maruccia went on to commemorate the great work of the “Team Volcano” program, which pairs up older students to mediate and solve conflicts between younger students on the playground.
“You also have an online etiquette and safety class, which I think is fantastic,” he added.
Maruccia continued, “Because Chester Elementary School has demonstrated an active commitment in following its motto ‘We choose to care about others, the world, and ourselves,’ … the Lozano Foundation is proud to name Chester Elementary and the Plumas Unified School District with the 2017 Signature Award. Congratulations.”
The children were then led back to their respective classrooms as live piano music played, adding an air of a commencement ceremony to the school event.
Principal Erin Mongiello said the school’s main objective in its anti-bullying campaign is to make sure students feel safe in the school environment and that they feel free to express their concerns.
“It’s our responsibility to educate students on the proper way to deal with bullies,” Mongiello said. “We make sure the students know the definition of bullying and what they can do if they’re being bullied or witness another student being harassed.”
It’s also important that “we make it clear what role the staff on campus play and the actions they need to take to prevent bullying,” she added.
Laura Kincaid, student services coordinator for the Chester community, explained how the award presentation came about by recalling that back in October of last year she heard that the Lozano Smith Foundation was holding a contest for schools to apply for anti-bullying efforts on school campuses.
After applying, “I was later notified right before winter break that Chester Elementary was one of the Signature Level recipients and was eligible for that award,” she said, adding that she is very proud of what they do at Chester Elementary to prevent bullying by bringing kids, teachers and parents together.
“One of the programs we have in place is our ‘Buddy Bench,’ where students can go if they need a friend. Other students can recognize that a student sitting on the bench is in need of a friend, and go over and reach out to them.”
Kincaid also mentioned the school’s Team Volcano program, “which is comprised of our fourth-, fifth- and sixth-grade students who are asked to provide peer mentoring to younger students on the playground.”
The way it works is, “Every month, five students from each of those grades are nominated by their teachers to participate,” for a total of 15 students from each class.
Kincaid provides a brief 20 minute training at the beginning of the month, “going over safety, what it means to solve problems, how to set an example and follow the rules, especially on the playground, by playing fairly and showing good sportsmanship. Then they go out and assist with yard duties for the entire month.”
It’s a way for kids to learn to empathize with others, she noted.
“Instead of having an adult like a teacher solve a problem between two students who are arguing,” for instance, “peer-to-peer interaction has been proven to be successful in solving conflicts,” and as a way to build leadership skills.
“We never had to do anything different (regarding the need to address bullying) to get this award,” Kincaid pointed out. “It’s all about what the kids were already doing,” adding that parents know that their sons or daughters are safe at Chester Elementary School, “And that we take their social and emotional needs into consideration as well,” not just their academic needs.
“In an age where we hear a lot about bullying and how horrific it can be for the well-being of a child, we’re proud that’s not a problem at Chester Elementary.”
That’s why she felt, “They deserve this recognition.”
The Lozano Smith Foundation letter announcing Chester Elementary School’s award for its anti-bullying program
The Lozano Smith Foundation recently announced the Bullying Prevention Program Award designed to highlight leaders in education, while raising awareness and prevention of bullying in California classrooms. It is the Foundation’s goal to feature those who help students reach their full potential in a safe learning environment.
The number of submissions was significant, and we are excited to announce that Chester Elementary School’s bullying prevention program was chosen as one of the winners of the Signature Level award. We believe it signifies the truly inspiring work that your school leaders and students have clearly shown through the program.
As part of this award, it would be our privilege to present the Plumas Unified School District with a $500 donation. We welcome the opportunity to recognize your commitment and dedication in preventing bullying at Chester Elementary and throughout the district.