2Sauceda Middle School Students Steven Gauna and David Decanini  pose with Principal Adela Troncoso and Box Out Bullying presenters.

Steven Gauna knows what it is like to be picked on. He was bullied when he attended elementary school last year.

“I experienced bullying quite a bit,” Gauna, a 6th grader at Sauceda Middle School said. “You know the saying ‘sticks and stones will break my bones but words will never hurt me.’ That’s completely false. Words do hurt emotionally and sometimes even physically.”

Gauna said he is no longer bullied and hopes it stays that way. He does not want his classmates to endure this type of bad behavior either. “Every time I was bullied it would make me sad,” Gauna said. “I’d go home and cry to my mom. I just want to say to everyone, please don’t bully. It hurts people. The student who’s affected then goes and bullies another student at school and that’s how the cycle continues.”

Donna ISD understands the seriousness of bullying and the need to raise awareness of the issue. That is why the school district’s Intake and Student Engagement Department brought in Box Out Bullying, an interactive, award-winning and research-based company from New York, to perform for students in DISD’s four middle schools (Sauceda, Todd, Veterans and A.P. Solis). The students learned important lessons and were provided with answers they need to sustain a positive school culture.

15Box Out Bullying presenters address Sauceda 6th graders.

“We make sure that students learn by seeing, listening, and doing,” said Jeremy Rubenstein, Founder and Creative Director of Box Out Bullying. “It’s much more effective in message retention. To make each presentation age-appropriate, students will either serve as participants to help hit messages home, or be engaged through “call and response” sections with the professional presenters.”

Gauna said the presentation was informative and entertaining. “I’m glad that the school brought this company,” Gauna said. “The presenters taught us about bullying, cyberbullying and all the bad things that could happen by using fun activities. That’s how I like to learn. I don’t like to read about this kind of thing in a book.”

Sixth grader David Decanini also appreciated the learning experience. “We’ve heard about high school students who’ve committed suicide because they were bullied for their looks or body appearances,” Decanini said. “Here at Sauceda, bullying is not acceptable. We have people who look out for us and care about us. It’s very strict.”

1Sauceda Middle School students Steven Gauna and David Decanini pose after participating in the Box Out Bullying presentation.

Sylvia Guzman Garza, a Sauceda licensed professional counselor, hopes this presentation served as a reminder that bullying should not be tolerated. “I think groups like this one are really important,” Guzman Garza said. “The interaction helps students understand what’s appropriate and what’s not appropriate. It also teaches them not to be afraid to report bullying and to talk to their parents or an adult when it happens. The presentation also shows students how to empower themselves and create empathy. A lot of students lack that.”

In addition to the presentation, DISD’s four middle schools also received Box Out Bullying’s comprehensive resource kits with follow-up materials, posters, and on-spot intervention cards to extend bullying prevention activities throughout the year.