Co-Presidents Eric Smuda and Grant Hagedorn at a Take Action presentation
SPARTA — Eric Smuda, who has become a sort of figurehead for anti-bullying activism at Sparta High School for the past few years, plans to unite Take Action and Key Club to host a rally in the high school’s auditorium later this month to raise awareness for teen bullying.
Take Action, founded by Smuda, was established in response to the tragedies that affected Sparta last year, a direct result of difficult social issues that face teens today. “There’s a growing demand for such a program,” said Smuda. “Kids need to know there is a support system available to them.” One year ago, Take Action began as a Facebook group, exclusively available for Sparta students, to inform them of the goals and proceedings of the club.
The club now meets every other Thursday, supervised by physical education teacher Catherine Reese.
“The thing we stressed the most was awareness,” said senior treasurer, Nikki Espinosa. Take Action’s first few meetings focused on getting members to open up to one another. “It was a kind of bonding experience,” explained Espinosa. “We needed everyone to trust each other.”
Now the club’s nearly 160 supporters are hard at work trying to expand the program to the middle school because the club believes that the earlier the students understand the effects of bullying, the fewer problems they will have down the road.
Last spring, Take Action mentored several younger school students and encouraged them to share their personal problems, providing support for those who haven’t quite found their niche in the high-drama setting of middle school.
The upcoming rally is the biggest Take Action event thus far. The event will feature several inspirational speakers, live music, and the nationally renowned life-appreciation program, Living is So Big. “The mood is going to be very entertaining for the most part,” said Editor Gabby Redding. The goal, however, is to work towards a solemn atmosphere in which the participants are given the floor to share their own experiences.”
This rally is scheduled for Oct. 26, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., and is open to the public for an admission fee of $5 with all proceedings benefitting Living is So Big.