It’s a win, win, win for the City of Miami Springs, Miami Springs Senior High School and two of its most creative students. The students earned the first-place award and plenty of cash for their school in the inaugural Bully Free-0-Five Miami-Dade Public High School Art & Film Festival.
The Art & Film Festival was created by a group of young professionals as part of the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce’s Leadership Miami Program. About 16 people from varying professions came together and decided that they wanted to focus their community service efforts in the area of education, and specifically on the epidemic of bullying in our local schools. They launched an art and video contest in which high school students from across the county were given a voice to express what bullying means to them.
More than 430 students from the district submitted artwork or videos to the contest resulting in over 220 final submissions from 33 different high schools. The winners of the contest were announced on March 20 at Miami Jackson Senior High School. Two students from Miami Springs Senior High, Jennifer Porres and Daniela Zapata, won first place for their video, “Take a Stand, Lend a Hand” and received $1,000 worth of prizes and $5,000 in cash for their school.
“These young ladies are incredibly talented and their work proves it,” said Lindi Bowman of Rise4Miami/Leadership Miami. “We are hoping to disseminate the video across the district so that students from all over can see the work of their peers. We believe that in order to make a real impact on bullying, change must originate from the students themselves. This is why we decided to create the Bully Free-0-Five Art & Film Festival and give students a voice through creative self-expression in order to illustrate what bullying means to them.”
This is a success story not just for Miami Springs Senior High School but a success story for the entire City of Miami Springs. The opening line of the award-winning video is, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
The video ends with statistics that should grab our attention. “One in seven students in K-12th grade is either a bully or a victim of bullying,” and “71 percent of students report incidents of bullying as a problem at their school.” Porres and Zapata ask viewers to take a stand and to lend a hand.
The city as a whole has done just that, starting with Kim Werner, who has long been a spokesperson for the anti-bullying campaign. Werner is the creator of A Piece Full World and a Miami Springs resident. Back in January, Werner was brought in for her expertise and to train bullying prevention to the Rise4Miami Group.
Werner contacted Miami Springs city manager Ron Gorland. He immediately said yes and opened the doors to New Community Center. Omar Luna and Noel Acosta graciously offered their assistance, too. With the support of a community, the anti-bullying training fell perfectly into place.
Werner was then invited to be one of the judges at the culminating event at Miami Jackson Senior High School. Of the more than 200 entries, the group had selected 10 and the judges then chose numbers 1, 2 and 3. Werner was surprised and thrilled to find out that the grand prize would go to students from her own backyard and she would then be asked to present the winning check to the students. School board member Susie Castillo was present the night of the awards and celebrated right alongside the recipients.
“This is big and the $5,000 is further acknowledgement of how important the anti-bullying message is,” Gorland said. “Way to go, Anna and Kim (referring to Miami Springs Senior High School Principal Anna Rodriguez and Werner)! Thanks again for all your efforts.”
"Bullying, in general, is ideally prevented when schools’ cultures shift from places in which bullying is perceived by kids as ‘cool’ to places where it isn't “cool,” said Werner. “That takes school districts’ leadership’s commitment and resources, human and monetary, sustained over time. That’s time and resources we in Miami-Dade County Public Schools, frankly, just don’t have right now. Miami Springs Senior High School, for example, has only three counselors and no TRUST counselor; our state’s bullying and harassment policy mandate, although important, is unfunded.
“So this video’s message of ‘going to battle’ for yourself and for each other resonates with me. It is a battle out there. Our weapons are friendship and courage — for ourselves and for each other.”
The winning video is scheduled to be shown at the Miami Springs city council meeting on April 8. You can also see the video at www.facebook.com/bullyfree05.