Local residents honored for their efforts to combat bullying

Unify Against Bullying President: The mission to end bullying is through the celebration of true diversity

EAST LONGMEADOW, Mass. (WWLP) – Unify Against Bullying distributed $10,000 in funding to community members in Holyoke, Springfield and East Longmeadow, among others.

Dozens gathered at Pasquale’s Ristorante in East Longmeadow, Monday night, to celebrate the efforts of 10 Massachusetts residents to combat bullying.

Unify Against Bullying President Edward Zemba told 22News their mission is to bring an end to bullying through the celebration of true diversity; “Empower the kids to make a difference in a way they feel they can best reach other kids, to get across the very simple message that bullying is not cool.”

Below is the 2017 Grant Award Recipients, which was provided by Unify Against Bullying:

Jason Dimitropolis – Jason is a career firefighter in Wilbraham, MA. He created his own program called #Positivity to help bring positivity into his community. He has worked with local schools and will soon be partnering with a player from the NFL to bring his mission nationwide!

Vianca Gonzalez – Vianca is a Holyoke High School student who is committed to helping bring an end to violence in her school. Through a program called Restorative Justice, she uses a unique perspective to help not only the victims, but the underlying causes of bullying as well.

Jessica Goodridge – Jessica is a high school student from Putnam Academy who created a program with four other students during her senior year to bring awareness to bullying through selling t‑shirts in her school. L.O.V.E. stands for Lift Others, Value Everyone. They are also looking to create a new website with an online store to sell their merchandise and continue to spread the message.

Jaime Peck – Jaime is the founder of From Tween to Teen Girls’ Group; a free‑of‑charge group for local growing girls to explore their inner and outer beauty through the use of small and large group discussion, media dissection, self-expression and art therapy based activities

Patrick Ireland – Patrick is the founder of a non-profit called Neutral Corner, which aims to teach youth non-contact self-defense along with other important life skills like good manners and kindness.

Michelle Lessard – Michelle co-owns a small business in Springfield with partner Nancy Feth. Their unique shop, Simply Serendipity, houses attire with positive messages as well as a yoga space in the back. Once a month, they gift the space to a group of inner city young women where they teach body mindfulness and meditation.

Jonathan Peters – Jonathan is an openly gay high school student from Sturgis Charter School in Cape Cod, MA. He started his own Youth Outreach Program committed to providing the resources that the youth in middle school and high school need to enable them to face their reality and overcome any negative responses or influences.

Kenny Roche – Kenny “Roshay” Roche is a Holyoke High School senior who is creating viral music videos about ending violence, accepting diversity and bringing an end to bullying.

Marna Shields – Marna is the director of Busy Bees, an East Longmeadow Pre-school. She will be purchasing new and revised versions of a program called Second Step that is an anti-bullying curriculum. They provide lessons that teach important social skills for our littlest learners.

Jennifer Young – Jennifer is the Director of the Be-A-Friend Project and co- founder of her company called See the Wish with partner, January Akselrad. The Be-A-Friend project is based out of New York, but has become national, helping kids in her community and across the country by placing an emphasis on positivity and kindness.