Oak Park students take part in national campaign against bullying

By By Lance Traweek / American Press

RaShad Bristo, who was born without an arm, talked to students at Oak Park Elementary about how bullying affected his childhood

and about the power of choice.

“I can’t change the fact that I was born with one arm,” Bristo told students during an assembly on Thursday. “But the way

I focus on it will be the important thing.”

The students took part in a national campaign against bullying.

Bristo said he started being bullied as early as kindergarten, but he said his grandfather told him one day that his disability

doesn’t define him but his determination does. He said all bullies will try to tap into a students’ insecurities.

“You can focus on your future or your feelings,” he told the students. “People will label you just to limit you.”

At the program, Michelle Bain, a children’s book author, read her book “Splotch the Madpole,” which delved into the topic

of bullying through a bullying tadpole.

“Bullying isn’t funny. Bullying isn’t cool. Bullying doesn’t work at home or Oak Park School,” Bain had the children say out

loud during the assembly. “I will do my best. I will really try not to take my feelings out on the next guy or gal. It is

awesome to be nice. That will be my goal. Because no one want to be around a mean old Madpole.”

The children signed their name on a board, pledging they would not be a bully.

Imari Colston, who is in the fifth grade, said it’s important that her and her classmates learn “that it’s not safe to be

a bully.”

“I learned that it’s mean to be a bully,” Colston said after the assembly. “You should be a leader instead of a follower.”

Fifth-grader Kemal Robertson agreed.

“If you’re a bully, you’re never going to have friends,” Robertson said.

The board titled “No Bullying Zone” will be on display in Washington, D.C., and Oak Park Elementary students will be the only

children in Louisiana to sign the board.

• • •

The event was sponsored by Louisiana Healthcare Connections, an affiliate of Centene Corporation.