By Kassie Parisi
CLIFTON PARK — More than 600 starstruck students at Arongen Elementary School gathered in the gymnasium Wednesday morning to watch Harlem Globetrotter Tay “Firefly” Fisher perform graceful feats with a basketball.
But, as the students watched Fisher seemingly force the ball to perform gravity-defying movements, they also learned a thing or two about bullying prevention.
Fisher, an alumnus of Siena College, visited the school as part of the Globetrotters’ anti bullying campaign, called the “ABCs of Bullying Prevention.” Created in conjunction with the National Campaign to Stop Violence, the program teaches bullying prevention by dividing the process into three categories: action, bravery and compassion. The program targets kids, usually elementary school-aged, and provides them with tools they can use to combat bullying in their schools and in their communities.
“It’s about good habits,” Shenendehowa Superintendent Oliver Robinson said. “We want kids to have good study habits. We want kids to have good behavior habits, and we want kids to have good habits in terms with how they interact with each other, because especially now, when they’re young and everything is impressionable, that’s a great time for us to instill in them those values as they grow older.”
During his visit, Fisher talked about verbal bullying, physical bullying and cyberbullying.
“We’re going to have some fun,” he said, while playing a clapping response game with the students. Fisher addressed each letter in the program individually and involved the students, asking them to use their bodies to represent the A, the B, and the C. While two young girls worked together to make the letter “A” with their arms, Fisher told the audience how important it is for students to take action and alert teachers if they witness, or fall victim to bullying.
Robinson said that, since elementary school children are highly impressionable, it’s crucial to expose them to programs that engage them and entice them to remember the lessons. Although he said he’s known students who remember what they learn in kindergarten, it’s important to continuously reinforce such anti-bullying lessons as students advance through school. He said Fisher has a charismatic way of relating to the students that can lead to the desired lasting impact.
“The ABC is a very simple lesson,” Robinson said. “It’s something that every kid can grab, from the youngest kindergartner in this room to our fifth-graders. Kids are naturally compassionate; you just have got to keep reminding them that.”