Dedicated elementary students spearhead Bully Busters support group

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INDEPENDENCE, Mo. -- In spite of the best efforts of many smart, well-intentioned people, bullying continues to haunt children in our schools and online, often with tragic results. Now, two sixth graders have taken on the challenge, starting with their own school. These Bully Busters are the FOX 4 Reaching 4 Excellence Young Achievers of the Week.

Projects to rein in and prevent bullying have sprung up in schools and community organizations everywhere. But not many of them are put together and run by elementary school children.

"They are very passionate, motivated girls," said Fire Prairie Upper Elementary School counselor Marandi Diehl.

Bully Busters is going strong at Fire Prairie in the Fort Osage School District, driven along by 12-year-old Tess Kinney and 11-year-old Shannon Jeffries, two very capable and devoted sixth graders.

"It's just been happening over and over again," said Shannon about bullying. "People's self-esteem gets low and everybody's upset. And it's just not right."

"I have been seeing kids bringing guns to school and hurting other kids on the news," said Tess. "And I've been seeing kids committing suicide over cyber-bullying and bullying. And I've been cyber-bullied myself."

Tess and Shannon created Bully Busters as a club and support group for kids at Fire Prairie who've been bullied or want to help children who've been bullied -- and want to keep it from happening anymore.

"We started thinking," said Shannon, "and we were like, 'Well, we could do an organization, we could make something of it.'"

The girls started talking about their idea back in the fall and moved with amazing speed and great skill and commitment to get it going. They consulted with school leaders and counselors and put together a proposal, got it approved at school and then Tess presented it herself to the school board -- and sold it.

"I think it's pretty amazing, especially at their age," said Diehl, "to show that kind of dedication and passion. And to have the drive to work and do the things that they've needed to do to get the club going."

With impressive authority, knowledge and ability, the girls plan, coordinate and run all the group's meetings and projects.

"Extremely impressed because the things that they have had to do to get the whole club organized and going, it's taken them many, many hours," said Diehl. "They come before school. They stay late. They work at home."

Only a few months old, Bully Busters has 60 members who've taken the club pledge already. It's growing every week and Tess and Shannon have big plans to take it much further.

"Going school and district wide," said Tess. "It was my resolution personally to make this go out to all the elementary schools, all the high schools, the middle schools. And if another district wants to adopt it, we'll talk to them about it, as well."

And they are having a positive impact at school and in children's lives.

"I think it's one thing for students to hear their teachers or their counselors or their principals talk about bullying," said Diehl, "but I think it's such a much more powerful message when you hear it from your own peer group and when you have them united as a whole."

Their posters say it all: "Always know that the world is a better place with you."

Tess and Shannon are making it a better place for everyone.

The girls are selling Bully Buster rubber bracelets to fund the group. They cost one dollar and you can get them by contacting the school. Call 816-650-7158 or send an email message to school counselor Marandi Diehl at mdiehl@fortosage.net.

FOX 4 News is Working 4 You to spotlight outstanding young people and their positive accomplishments. In our weekly report called Reaching 4 Excellence we meet young achievers in subjects like academics, the arts, leadership, community service, volunteerism, career exploration, overcoming obstacles and heroism.

Watch for Reaching 4 Excellence every Wednesday on Fox 4 News at 9 p.m. and every Thursday on Fox 4 News at 8 a.m. and noon.

Phil Witt, Fox 4 News

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