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Scouts’ quest for kindness

Those who think kids don’t get bullied in Yellow Springs should think again, according to members of the local Girl Scout Troop 30349. And the scouts are especially concerned about how girls hurt each other.

“It affects girls’ self esteem, the way they feel about themselves,” said Mills Lawn fifth-grader Julia Hoff. “Getting bullied causes them to think bad thoughts about themselves, and perhaps hurt themselves.”

The eight fifth-grade members of the troop see girls bullying other girls frequently, they said.

“I see a lot of my friends getting bullied,” said Peyton Gray. And according to Hoff, “I know people who are made fun of, or called mean names.”

The girls who get bullied may be those who “smell differently, don’t have as much money, or fall asleep in class,” Hoff said. And while boys also bully each other, they tend to fight it out, and then the conflict is over. But with girls, according to the scouts, bullying more often involves gossip, or saying mean things, over and over.

“It just keeps going on,” said Isaiah Crawford.

These local scouts aren’t sitting still for girl bullying. Rather, the Girl Scout Juniors have taken it upon themselves to help educate the community, and try to bring about positive change. To do so, they will present Finding Kind, a documentary on girl bullying, this Friday, May 24, at 7 p.m. at the Bryan Center gym. All are invited to the free event.

The film was made by two young women, victims of bullying themselves, who came together at Pepperdine College in California to confront the issue. And the project grew in ways they didn’t anticipate, from just a film to the Kind Campaign, a nonprofit organization and movement that, according to the Web site, “brings awareness and healing to the negative and lasting effects of girl-against-girl “crime.” The filmmakers, Lauren Parsekian and Molly Stroud, have traveled the country since 2009 showing the film, presenting it to over 30,000 females in 300 schools.

“We are shaped by the people around us and the messages we receive from others,” according to the Web site. “These often unhealthy, competitive friendships are something that every female deals with and it’s an issue that has frequently been swept under the rug. There is no reason that female bullying should be considered “normal” or a “rite of passage.”

Wendy Hoff, the mother of Julia and co-leader, with Erin Hankie, of the group, learned of Finding Kind on the Web, and introduced it to the scouts. They were looking for a community problem to address in order to achieve a bronze award, the third highest award given to Girl Scouts, and the only award that Girl Scout Juniors are able to receive. The project involves several stages, with the first stage that of identifying the problem. The group distributed surveys at recent Girls Night Out events, where 90 percent of those who responded saw girl bullying as a local problem. The group then needed to achieve consensus on the project, which, after discussion, they did. And, according to Wendy Hoff, the project has involved the girls taking on many new responsibilities, such as writing a press release, asking for donations and writing a script for the MLS news show. “They have learned effective techniques for organizing an event,” Hoff said.

Now they’re eager to show the film, which will be followed by a community discussion. At the film, participants will also have the opportunity to fill out Kind Pledges, make Kind Apologies and write Kind Cards (all of which will be private.)

The scouts hope that those who see the film come away with a new sense of hopefulness.

“We want people to come away thinking they’re not alone,” said Madrid Joy. “We want them to think they can do something about bullying.”

Julia Hoff hopes that girls come away from the film knowing that “it’s okay to tell others how you feel. And you might lose a friend but that friend probably was not worth it.”

And Wendy Hoff hopes that both children and adults leave the film “not only with a greater understanding of the problem and how prevalent it is, but knowing that we have a choice, and every day we can choose to be kind.”

The film is being funded by Simply Women, a local charity founded by Yellow Springs High School senior Paloma Wiggins when she was in eighth grade.

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