Local teens aren’t happy about bullying. That’s why they started the Anti-Bullying Club, or the ABC.
“I define bullying as people lowering other peoples’ self-esteem,” said Bobby Martorelli, 17, a senior at Warwick Veterans Memorial High School. “People make other people feel not wanted. They do it to feel better and more superior and that’s wrong.”
Bobby, who spearheaded the ABC at Vets and serves as president, addressed his peers on the first day of school in September to inform them about the group. He let them know that students from all grades are welcome to join. Since then, more than 65 students have signed up to participate.
“We hope to cut down the bullying rate so we see changes and improvements at school,” Bobby said. “I hope kids can feel better about things and not be afraid to say hi to people they don’t know. I want kids to feel that they can speak freely. People are starting to open up to one another.”
Bobby’s friend Billy Golato, 18, who graduated from Bishop Hendricken High School last year and is majoring in Fire Science at the Community College of Rhode Island, helps with the club. He focuses on raising awareness by telling people about it.
“The more people who follow the group, the more other people will hear about it and want to do the right thing, too,” Billy said. “There’s bullying everywhere, but when you actually see it firsthand it’s pretty crazy and it makes you want to stop it.”
Bobby came up with the idea for the club last spring when he began working on his senior project. While he ended up putting together a soccer camp for children instead, he kept the club notion in the back of his mind.
But, his desire for eradicating bullying sprouted much earlier in his life.
“I went to a Catholic school when I was younger called St. Pius the X for nine years but I went to a public elementary school for fifth grade and I didn’t like it very much because of all the bullying that went on,” he said.
The next year, he switched back to St. Pius to finish junior high school. Then, he and his family moved to Warwick, where he attended Pilgrim High School. They moved again and he enrolled at Vets.
“It was a big change and I was getting used to it,” Bobby said. “I went to Challenge Day, which is a day for all the kids to get together and get to know each other. After that, I realized that something needed to be done to stop bullying. I was just a freshman but I knew I wanted to make a change.”
Toward the end of his junior year, Bobby approached Vets principal Gerry Habershaw and told him he was interested in starting the ABC. Habershaw loved the concept and encouraged Bobby to follow through with his aspirations.
“Bullying is such a hot topic and I thought it was a really good idea,” said Habershaw. “Because the idea came from a child, I thought it would be a more powerful way to reach students. He’s a great kid and we need more leaders like him.”
Bobby’s father, Robert Martorelli, agrees. He said he is very proud of his son.
“He’s taking this on and hopefully it will make an impact on the children,” Robert said. “It might help stop the bullying that’s going on, which is something they need to do because it’s out of hand in a lot of places. I see a great future for him.”
As Bobby will graduate this academic year, he hopes younger students carry on the club. He doesn’t want his siblings Billy, 15, a sophomore at Vets, and Olivia, 11, a sixth grader at Robertson Elementary School, to become victims. In fact, he hopes they keep the club active.
“I want it to be passed down year after year so people can keep it going,” he said. I think it’s important.”
While Bobby is still in the process of gathering members, the group has been meeting twice a month. So far, they’ve discussed plans for fundraisers, advertising and what they plan to accomplish.
“I want to make a cyber-bullying video because I want more people to know about the negative effects it has on people’s lives,” he said.
Proceeds earned through fundraisers will be donated to the Tim Packhem and Corrina Cole Scholarship Fund. The fund was created to remember the two Vets students that perished in accidents in 2007.
Packhem was Bobby’s stepbrother, making the mission all that more meaningful to him.
“I notice a lot of name-calling and it’s so second grade,” Bobby said. “It should have ended a long time ago. Using certain words offends people and hurts their feelings. I see people crying about it every day. It’s out of hand and it needs to stop.”
Bobby said he planned car washes at the Buttonwoods Community Center to help raise funds for the ABC. However, he wasn’t sure about the dates.
Patricia St. Amant, Warwick director of Family Support Services, said she briefly met with Bobby in September to hear about his club and guide him to take the necessary steps to make the fundraisers happen. Unfortunately, she said he didn’t follow through.
She encouraged junior and senior high school students looking to take on such an endeavor to contact her.