The West Salem School District took Unity Day to the classroom this week in a new effort to fight bullying and promote compassion.

In the past, students have dressed in orange in celebration of Unity Day. This year, West Salem’s Youth Frontiers Leadership Council wanted to take things to the next level.

“We didn’t feel it was enough to just wear orange,” said senior Melanie Weigel, who is a member of the Youth Frontiers Leadership Council. “We wanted people to know what Unity Day meant.”

Youth Frontiers is a club for seniors that want to lead the school and set an example for underclassmen. In previous years, Youth Frontiers has hosted fundraisers for the American Cancer Society and other groups.

Weigel said while many students do participate in Unity Day, many don’t understand what the event is about and it seems like just another dress up day.

Senior Alexis Brueggen said it was as if Unity Day had lost it’s meaning adding that the the goal of the event was to “unite as one against bullying.”

To do that, Youth Frontiers held a school-wide discussion during student’s homeroom hour on Tuesday.

During this activity, students watched a Burger King video about standing up to bullies.

“I think the video is a good example of how you should behave,” Brueggen said.

She said after the videos students would be asked to discuss ways they can show compassion and combat bullying.

Students answers were recorded on orange cards which were displayed during a group photo Wednesday.

According to Youth Frontiers Adviser Ryan Nelson, the goal is to target bystanders who let bullying persist and turn them into what he called “upstanders” who will stand up and stop bullying.

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Tobias Mann is a reporter with the River Valley Media Group. He can be reached at tobias.mann@lee.net or at 608-791-8216.

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