October is National Bullying Prevention Month, and one non-profit organization is taking steps to prevent bullying in schools across Duval County.
City Year Jacksonville provides mentors to students in public elementary, middle, and high schools to prevent bullying.
According to the National Center for Education and Statistics, 1 in 5 students ages 12 to 18 years old endure bullying during the school year.
But City Year Jacksonville Development Director Elizabeth Reeger is working to change that in Duval County.
“We have this amazing group of 18–25-year-old, city year coaches, like Ria, who commit a year of their life to serving our community,” Reeger said.
Ria Hill is a mentor at San Jose Elementary School.
She said she decided to get involved with City Year Jacksonville because she remembers what it’s like to feel unseen.
“The age group that I work with now, 8 to 9, some 10-year-olds, around that age, I personally felt unseen, overlooked, unsupported,” Hill said. “So, it’s really rewarding and fulfilling to be the kind of support system or an important part of the support system that I needed when I was younger.”
Research shows students who experience bullying are at increased risk for depression, anxiety, sleep difficulties, lower academic achievement and dropping out of school.
“Being that consistent voice of validation and reassurance, something I even do with my kids, practicing positive affirmations, to help build their confidence it just really helps to mold you into being the strongest version of yourself and it inspires you to want to help others,” Hill said.
Data shows that school-based bullying prevention programs decrease bullying by up to 25%.
With programs like City Year Jacksonville, more children will feel empowered in the classroom instead of being bullied.