New York Jets Linebacker Lorenzo Mauldin visited Edison Intermediate School on May 4, praising students and staff for creating a supportive school culture that says no to bullying and yes to kindness and empathy.
“Give yourselves a round of applause,” said Mauldin whose visit was the culmination of the “Jets Upstander of the Week” program which rewards students for standing up for others and for being kind, compassionate, helpful and courageous.
Edison health/physical education teacher Christine Cabrales organized the program at Edison after attending a summer anti-bullying symposium hosted by the New York Jets. For 16 weeks, Cabrales and her fellow physical education staff members nominated one Edison student per week who demonstrated “upstanding qualities.” Each student “Jets Upstander of the Week” received a t-shirt and tickets to a Jets game with their photograph posted on the school district’s Twitter feed.
“This program is important because it helps raise awareness about the impact of bullying and promotes inclusion and kindness,” said Cabrales. “It spreads the message that bullying in any way, shape, or form is not okay.”
Edison was one of only three schools in the tri-state area to receive a visit from a Jets player in recognition of its anti-bullying efforts.
“I’m really pleased we can be together to celebrate the positive attributes of our school and of these 16 students,” said Edison principal Matthew Bolton, in opening the assembly and welcoming Mauldin and other members of the program. “Because of the good work you all do and the good work of your teachers, there are many more upstanders in this school.”
The Jets Tackle Bullying program partners with the national organization STOMP Out Bullying whose founder Ross Ellis joined Mauldin and Jets community relations director Jesse Linder at the Edison assembly. “We’re changing the culture and putting an end to bullying once and for all,” said Ellis.
Shuttled between 12 to 15 foster homes from the age of 2 to 18, Mauldin told the students he was “picked on every single day” because of the shabby condition of his clothes or the lack of access to basic hygiene products. After trying to deal with it on his own, often getting into fights, the NFL player says, he sought help from a school counselor. “At the end of the day, I understood what needed to happen and I made a change.”
Mauldin listed techniques students can use to help each other out if they witness bullying including telling an adult, not posting videos of an incident to social media, refusing to laugh or be an audience for a bully, helping the person being targeted and inviting that person to join in activities.
Bottom line, said Mauldin, “if you see something, say something.”