Local students win top innovation award for anti-bullying school program

Ambassadors for Respect students from ISD 622’s Next Step Transition Program received a plaque for innovation at the Minnesota State Government Innovation Awards on Aug. 8. The award, given out at the Minnesota History Center, was for teaching fourth-grade students about bullying and how to avoid being a bystander. (submitted photo)

Ambassadors for Respect reached more than 3,000 Minnesota fourth-graders to encourage anti-bullying talk and action. The program's last activity has students write an act of kindness they'll commit to doing on stars that are strung together in a classroom. (courtesy of PeaceMaker Minnesota)

ISD 622 Next Step students partnered with PeaceMaker Minnesota and Ambassadors for Respect, an anti-bullying program for fourth-graders taught by students with disabilities. 

The students received a State Government Innovation Award Aug. 8 after receiving a grant for teaching anti-bullying skills to the fourth-grade students.

“When we work in a positive way and a collaborative way, we can innovate and do things even better,” said Chris Schmitter, chief of staff to Gov. Tim Walz, at the award ceremony.

The Next Step students share personal stories of being bullied and run in-school workshops and activities for the children. Examples of activities include shredding derogatory words in a paper shredder and committing to carrying out acts of kindness. 

The students “found a way to take the status quo and make it a little better,” said Eileen Briggs with the Bush Foundation, the social services organization that funded the innovations.

More than 70 applications flooded in, and 10 innovations were chosen. The Ambassadors for Respect students were among the top-four award winners and received a special promotional video highlighting the program. 

Next Step, located in North St. Paul, is a transition program that prepares young adults for employment and independent living. PeaceMaker Minnesota, located in Roseville, works with schools to stop violence and bullying.

“Thank you for your hard work and for inspiring us every day,” Briggs said to the award recipients. 

The Ambassadors for Respect PDF handbook can be found at www.mn.gov.


—Amy Felegy


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