Student Group Combats Bullying Worldwide
Published: Friday, February 1, 2013
Updated: Friday, February 1, 2013 02:02
During her middle and high school years, it was not uncommon for Fabianna Pergolizzi (COL ’13) to arrive at school to find her locker filled with McDonald’s hamburgers or discover nails in her car tires.
“I went to my school dean 100 times and nothing was done,” she said.
After these experiences with relentless bullying in her adolescence, Pergolizzi was inspired to establish Project Anti-Bully, a student-run nonprofit that seeks to raise awareness of bullying in schools through community-based research, in 2006.
“[If you can] take the fear away from the bully … if you intimidate them by doing positive things and being strong, they can’t touch you,” Pergolizzi said.
Inspired by a study of bullying in middle schools by Child Abuse Prevention Services, Pergolizzi conducted a survey in her hometown of Naples, Fla., about bullying. Working with a statistician, Pergolizzi found that 86 percent of students surveyed reported suffering from some form of bullying daily. Pergolizzi and her team submitted a synopsis of their research to the American Psychiatric Association in 2006 and later presented their findings to the APA.
Project Anti-Bully, which has 150 members in 13 countries, now has its research published in the Journal of Medicine, the Journal of School Violence and International Journal of Adolescence Medical Health.
Pergolizzi receives letters from students around the world about their bullying experiences. Though Pergolizzi and her team make it clear that they are students, not lawyers or counselors, they try to give bullied students an outlet to speak openly.
Children who have been bullied and are interested in joining the nonprofit are offered spots on the organization’s team.
Some students join the group to express solidarity with friends and family who have been bullied. Matt Denicola (COL ’13), the project’s graphic designer, joined after his younger sister was bullied while he was away at Georgetown.
“Just because I couldn’t be there for my sister, I want to try to be there for someone else,” he said. “I wanted to give back in any way that I could [and] try to make a difference in someone’s life.”
Project Anti-Bully has been active on Georgetown’s campus, organizing a Sandy Hook candle vigil after the school shooting in Newtown, Conn.
“[I am] … trying to really embrace kids and get them to notice the whole project and what we do,” Denicola, who is one of 15 students currently involved at Georgetown, said.
Pergolizzi said that the university’s Jesuit community supports the Project Anti-Bully’s work on campus, and the group aims to reach out to the broader campus community.
In addition to providing education on different types of bullying, including cyberbullying, in the form of intervention programs in schools, the organization is working on a documentary titled “Kids Are Mean” and beginning two campaigns to increase bullying awareness. The project also operates an anti-bully hotline.