St. Mary's Institute in Amsterdam received a $10,000 prize last week for winning a national school safety contest with an anti-bullying video.
The school's eighth-graders worked with their art teacher to record themselves acting out a script they wrote - "The Big Bad Bullies" - demonstrating bullying scenarios like name-calling, cyber-bullying, exclusion at the lunch table and harassment in the halls.
A peer comes to the victims' rescue and scolds offenders. The scenes were shot in black and white with no sound; lighthearted silent film music plays as title cards appear onscreen.
The filmmakers thought some humor would enable viewers to "relate to it a little more," said Olivia Mautone, one of the 19 members of the class of 2013 involved in the production.
The students say that bullying isn't a big problem at their school, but they've seen it at the mall and know society is struggling with it - and that they could experience bullying when they start high school in the fall.
"We wanted people to realize how much it hurts and how much it affects people," said student Alexis Tirado. "And we wanted to put a stop to it. [The video] puts awareness out [about] how much bullying there is and how much it goes on around the world."
The end of the video introduces sound and color and features the whole student body taking an anti-bullying pledge at an assembly. Closing out the film is a slideshow of pictures of younger students holding signs they made for the project with slogans like, "Respect," "Be a good friend" and "You hurt people's feelings when you bully."
The contest was sponsored by Catholic Mutual Group, which administers the Albany Diocese's claims and risk management insurance. Schools were asked to come up with creative ways to make their school a safer place and encourage safe practices in students' daily activities. The older children felt strongly about the topic of bullying.
Eighth-grader Gianna Quatrini told The Evangelist that her Catholic faith "helps us realize even more that bullying is not right. It helps us build a stronger connection to it."
Art teacher Christine Potter, who directed the students, hopes the award can fund interactive SMART Boards for the art room so she can do similar projects in the future. She teamed up with a student to edit the video.