National Spotlight on Bullying

Film Program Teaches Kids More Than Just Movie Making!

By Courtney Daly-Pavone March 25, 2019

Ever Wonder What's on Kids Minds?

Students at The Ethical Community Charter School in New Jersey created a film to prevent bullying titled Like Us.  This movie is written, and stars students from the schools FSA Performing Arts program which provides film and dance education to 145 students For Free.  

Their Mission-To show Like Us in schools across America, and put an end to bullying.  Like Us is coming to a school near you this September. It has already inspired many, from the dedication of the students who wrote and acted in the film, to dedicated staff and parent volunteers. Amazing fundraising efforts helped to make it all happen. This film has already changed lives by teaching children empathy, coping tips, and professional career skills. 

Co-writer Tala Issa describes the film, "Our movie is about a group of kids who were forced to band together to join a contest. Each of them has an aspect of them that makes them a 'misfit,' and each have their own talents. Our movie is about acceptance, and that even if we have our flaws, we all have unique talents to balance us out. One of the main characters of the movie is going through a rather difficult time, and the movie is also about her journey -with her friends- through such a tough time." 

Seventh grader and co-writer Abigail says the film is ultimately about acceptance. "Personally, I hope that people realize their own abilities and to not put themselves down. We all have our flaws, and sometimes, it is less of a deal than you think it is."

Fellow student and co-writer Arko who is now in the sixth grade, said he experienced bullying in the past. "I was bullied in my previous school ever since 3rd grade. I don't like sharing how they bullied me, but being bullied makes me feel like i am the worst and I cannot do anything right."

Fortunately, these students all credit their current school The Ethical Community Charter School for having a handle on bullying. This public charter schools ethos is to provide children the skills to make good choices and positively shape the world. 

Julie Hertzog, Director at Pacer's National Bullying Prevention Center, believes Like Us will make a huge impact with kids. "Peers listen to peers; this is especially true of our youth who are influenced and impacted by what other students say and do. Who knows what youth are experiencing better than other youth? Relying on their voice to tell this story makes It relevant and authentic." Herzog says Like Us shows how bullying effects a number of students lives."One of the many strengths of the script/film is that the authors take a step back to look at life through a number of individual perspectives, allowing the audience to empathize and identify with the different backstories and to possibly see something of themselves in each character."

Kris Van Nest is a Director, Professional Educator and Executive Producer of the online media network THISLEARNING®, he says learning in his class has been a two way street. "I’ve been teaching video and film making classes in Jersey City for many years, and one of the greatest learning moments – for myself and for my students – is when I give students permission to go from “must be” and give them the freedom to explore “what if” from their own perspectives. This freedom allows students to express themselves in ways they may not have previously thought possible, and also allows us, as adults, a glimpse into their lives, thoughts, and feelings which we may not have had before. " Ann Wallace a parent volunteer praised the efforts of the students. "It has been thrilling to watch the student actors now bring the characters to life, adding layers of depth that we, in the screenwriting sessions, could not have imagined."

This program and its students have gained the attention of Hollywood. Celebrities that overcame bullying when they where in middle school stopped by to check out the film, and meet the students. Clark Middleton from The Blacklist, and John Roberts from Bob's Burgers, and music composer Joe Trapanese who did the music for The Greatest Showman all lectured FSA students. You can read their stories below. 

Clark Middleton

John Roberts

Like Us is coming to a school near you this September. This film has already changed lives by teaching children empathy, coping skills, professional career skills and more!

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