When Aura Ordonez heard a commotion during a birthday party that her son, Diego, 9, was attending, she wondered what was going on.
As she approached the site of the noise, many parents told her, “You have a wonderful son.”
Diego, a 5-year-student at Anta's Fitness and Self Defense karate school in Doral, stopped another child from bullying his younger cousin with one of the lessons he learned from the school’s anti-bullying campaigns.
“He had applied the techniques that he has learned at the karate school,” said Ordonez, who wishes her older daughter, also named Aura, 19, had the same knowledge. “I wish she knew some self-defense, so she could protect herself when I’m not around.”
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With bullying becoming a larger issue in the public eye, more and more anti-bullying classes and campaigns are developing throughout South Florida.
“It is a subject that has received a lot more attention in the past decade,” said Jeremy Pettit, an associate professor of psychiatry and psychology at Florida international University. “There definitely hasn’t always been this emphasis on anti-bullying.”
On Oct. 10, the karate school will host a free event, “Be a Hero Not a Bystander,” in honor of National Bullying Prevention Month. The school has a banner where individuals can pledge not to be a bystander when others are being bullied. The program hopes to encourage more than 1,000 people to make the pledge against bullies.
“Verbalization doesn’t work unless you walk with confidence,” said Julio Anta, owner of Anta's Fitness and Self Defense. “If you don’t build a child’s self-confidence or teach them techniques to defend themselves, it won’t work.”
National Bullying Prevention Month, a campaign in the United States, was founded in 2006 by PACER's National Bullying Prevention Center.
Another South Florida organization that aims to fight bullying, violence and suicide is the National Voices for Equality Education and Enlightenment, which is planning to host a bullying and suicide prevention summit on Oct. 18.
The event will include interactive sessions on cyber-bullying, gender and orientation equality and prevention strategies.
“Nobody walks away without the tools to make a difference,” said Jowharah Sanders, founder of NVEEE.
For Katie Steel, a 15-year-old aspiring singer, being part of NVEEE has made her more thick-skinned, particularly online and in social media, where she posts many of her performances and photos.
"I haven't been bullied to the extent of others," said the home-schooled student. “But this program has prepared me for that and to look past it and keep going."
Suicide Prevention Hotline
By calling 1-800-273-TALK (8255) you’ll be connected to a skilled, trained counselor at a crisis center in your area, anytime 24/7.
If you go
What: Be a Hero Not a Bystander – An anti-bullying workshop for kids, teens, adults and parents, teaching passive self-defense techniques against bullying.
Where: 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Oct. 10, 10721 NW 58th St., Doral. For events in Kendall, South Miami, Hialeah, Miami Lakes and Biscayne Park, visit http://artoffightingwithoutfighting.com/events.
Information: Call 305-599-3649 or visit artoffightingwithoutfighting.com.
What: Bullying and Suicide Prevention Summit
Where: Florida International University, 11200 SW Eighth St., Miami
When: 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., Oct. 18
Information: Call 954-561-2626 or visit nveee.org.