Each new school year students are introduced to new classmates, teachers and friends, but for students who suffer from bullying, school and fun activities can be anything but enjoyable.
After speaking with a few fellow students about the issue of bullying, Mandan Middle School sixth-grader Andi Nelson, 12, wanted to make sure that every student felt like they mattered. So last month she approached her guidance counselor, Kristi Fry, about having an anti-bullying campaign at the school.
Fry recalled Andi coming into her office passionate and prepared about standing up to bullying.
"Bullying prevention as counselors we're always trying to promote it but after awhile it seems like kids kind of get tired of hearing from the adults all the time," Fry said. "So when we have students that are eager and passionate about it then we want to run with it because we know they will get it more from them."
With Andi spearheading the campaign, she and Fry created a month of activities to help students stand up to bullying. Monday kicked off the month of activities with "Blue Shirt Day," a national campaign on the first Monday of October that brings awareness to National Bullying Prevention Month. Andi and Fry implemented some of the national organization's approaches in this month's activities.
"I've been bullied before," said Andi. "I've ignored it but sometimes it gets so bad that you can't ignore it. There is always a counselor, friends and family."
Andi said that asking her friends to stick up for her while she was being bullied helped to alleviate the situation, "Just tell people about it." Andi added that if your friends won't stick up for you then they probably are not your friends.
She went on to say that her parents, Bill and Joey Nelson, always encouraged her to stand up for herself.
Andi wants to attend college at Stanford University in California and one day become a doctor. "I always wanted to find the cure for cancer," Andi said, or be elected as the first female president of the United States of America, as well as starting a foundation to help people in need.
"One will make a difference in our community. We're very proud of the initiative and the drive that she's shown," said Ryan Leingang, the principal at Mandan Middle School, about Andi.
During October the school will have a new theme each week focusing on ways to stomp out bullying:
Week of Oct. 9: Make Friends with Someone You Don’t Know Day.
Week of Oct. 16: Stand Up for Others week.
Week of Oct. 23: Week of Inclusion.
Week of Oct. 30: Week of Discussion.
"Bullying is a thing and it happens to everybody, if you're popular, unpopular, it happens to everybody," said Andi, "We need to just stop it."
To learn more about the Stomp Out Bullying organization visit www.stompoutbullying.org/campaigns/blue-shirt-day-world-day-bullying-prevention.