By Lisa Barry, Contributing Writer
Shrewsbury – Violence and bullying are realities that schools everywhere have had to battle. Christina Berganza, an eighth-grader at Oak Middle School in Shrewsbury, has dedicated herself to standing up to bullying and doing what she can to bring about positive change among her peers.
Christina, an active member of the “Dream, Believe, Know it Foundation,” is using the tools she has acquired from the foundation to promote peace and kindness at her school and across her district.
“There are so many problems and people need to see that they are worth something and they don’t need to be getting pushed around every day,” she said.
Obtaining confidence and a positive self-image, Christina admitted, was not easy for her to do for herself. But after attending her first conference put on by the foundation, she said her self-confidence was already on the rise.
“They had a lot of seminars on self-confidence and leadership and building better relationships with your peers,” she noted.
In 2008, Berganza met the organization's founder, Daryl Washington. Washington asked Berganza, then in the fourth grade, if she would be interested in participating in his foundation, which he created to empower the youth of America to realize their true and full potential. Christina and her mother, Debbie, have been advocates for the foundation ever since.
Depression, cutting, suicide, eating disorders, and drugs are all issues Christina said are? prevalent among students her age and even younger. She said she feels that above all else, students have to worry about bullying.
“The biggest problems that I’ve seen are bullying and harassment. People get shoved into lockers, name calling, jealousy. It's just hard,” she said.
One of the several facets that the Dream, Believe, Know it Foundation emphasizes is its “Caution – No Bullying Zone.” Washington and his team of mentors have collaborated to design a curriculum that teaches students how to make healthy decisions and builds self-esteem. When a school chooses to invest in the curriculum, one male and one female inspirational speaker are sent to speak at an all-school assembly. The teachers and staff are left with tools to continue positive discussions long after the speakers are gone.
After five years of attending Dream, Believe, Know it Foundation conferences, Christina is convinced her peers can also benefit from what the foundation has to offer.
“I’m just hoping and praying that, if everything goes well, people from [the foundation] can come into the school and teach kids that, ‘you have a purpose,'” she said.
Washington praised Christina for her willingness to lead by example at her school. He said that she is living out the example that he hopes his foundation will bring to more kids across the country, and “that you truly have the power to make a difference.”
Washington travels to schools across the country to spread his vision for the foundation.
“I’ll go speak at any school,” Washington said. “We need students to be more unified, to teach them to work together and not point fingers.”
“God knows it's hard to be a parent these days, but the important thing is to try to be open with your child, no matter how hard it is,” Debbie said. “So many kids are scared to talk to their parents about being bullied.”
She said that she is proud of her daughter's personal growth, as well as her commitment to spread what she has learned through her school.
“I’ve always told her, ‘You don’t need to impress anybody, you are beautiful the way you are,'” Debbie said.
Christina said her message is simple.
“I want everyone to know they just need to have hope and believe in themselves; that is where change is going to start.”
For more information, visit http://thedbkfoundation.org/.