‘No Bullies’ campaign takes off

It’s said that anyone can be bullied and anyone could be a bully.

A little over a year ago, this became clear in the heart of a young teen that happened to be a member of the Miss Seal Beach Court. She wondered: How do you stop bullying?

Savannah Finch, Miss Teen Seal Beach 2013, knew any worthwhile journey starts with the first step forward. With pluck and confidence Finch decided, while she would wear her crown, she’d use her position to do something that might echo well beyond her own experience on the Miss Seal Beach Court and maybe make the world a little better.

Thus began the Miss Seal Beach Pageant court’s “No Bullies” campaign. Rosie Ritchie, the Miss Seal Beach Pageant program’s director, embraced the idea. Meanwhile, Finch’s sisters on the court also got on board. She wrote an article for her local newspaper. People started to take notice.

It helped that the idea was one that had been occurring throughout the nation. Anti-bully was suddenly becoming a hip idea. However, the Miss Seal Beach Court wanted to produce something that could be a tool for people to use and participate in the campaign. There needed to be something tactile they decided, so that people could become actively aware of the problem and start employing some solutions.

Early in the process, Ritchie and her crew hit upon the idea of a special way to help get the message across to the youth in the schools of the Los Alamitos Unified School District. They would enroll the students in the campaign by having them participate as models in various posters they would create to publicize the “No Bullies” message. Photo shoots on various school campuses were arranged thanks to the cooperation of the school district and its leadership from the LAUSD Superintendent Sherry Kropp.

Thanks to the help of volunteers such as photographer Felix Flores and Marcella Mcsorley, and the parents of the Miss Seal Beach Court members, the images were gathered. Then it was a matter of deciding how to proceed with producing the poster that would eventually hang on the walls of the many halls of the many schools in the district.

“They will be made available to other schools as well through our web site, misssealbeach.com,” Ritchie said. “We have been working on this campaign for over a year.  We often see the standard circle with a strike through it saying no bullies.

“In speaking to students, I asked what they thought when they saw that poster.  Most of them said that they didn’t pay attention to it, it meant nothing to them.  That’s when I thought why not get the kids involved, let them be part of it.  All the kids you see in the posters are our Miss Seal Beach members and local students and residents. They are part of the message that shares actual statistics or famous quotes.”

It took months to produce the posters. In the meantime, Ritchie created a video for the campaign that spotlights the posters with a heartfelt text.

“We still need to put some music and narration on the video,” she said.

The video can be seen on Youtube by looking up Understanding the Bully.

This week, the Miss Seal Beach Court members are distributing the posters and hanging them up in school hallways throughout the Los Alamitos Unified School District.

The Miss Seal Beach program has financed the posters’ production. However, the organization, a registered non-profit, is accepting donations to defray the costs so they may continue to perform their other functions and community service, such as volunteering at Ronald McDonald House and making countless public appearances and things like the No Bullies campaign.

If someone wants to donate toward the cost of the posters, contact Rosie Ritchie at (562) 810-0078.

“We’ve enjoyed the project and hearing the feedback,” Ritchie said. “I’ve heard so many stories as I’ve researched and some are sad.  If our campaign could make a difference in just one person’s life then we’ve accomplished what we set out to do, which is creating awareness in our schools and encouraging kids to take a stand.

“A student in a group could easily step up saying, stop it…you’re being mean, that’s not funny or simply walk away and most often the bully will stop. Often the bully does it for the attention and if his/her audience walks away then he/she has no one to impress.

Ritchie said that support for the No Bullies campaign has been expressed throughout the entire community.

“However, I’m very thankful to the Sun Newspaper for assisting with sharing our platform, the City of Seal Beach, Jill Ingram, Seal Beach City manager; The Seal Beach Police Department (some of its members are seen in one of the posters) and Amber Ruiz, Chris Vlasic and Sherry Kropp of the Los Alamitos Unified School District,” she said.