MARYSVILLE – It seems only fitting that the Marysville School District has given Preston Dwoskin a bully pulpit to talk about something he knows a lot about – being bullied.
Dwoskin was bullied years ago when he went to Marysville schools because of a hearing disability. Now, Dwoskin works for the district, and this year is going around to schools to share his story. The district still has a problem with bullying, even more so because of social media. But it has taken many steps the past few years to try to reduce the problem.
One of the steps is Dwoskin’s “Superhero” presentation, which he gives to grade schools. At a recent one at Cascade Elementary, Dwoskin shared how he was bullied until third grade. That’s when Dane Widness took it upon himself to befriend Dwoskin. “He saved my life,” Dwoskin said.
The Marysville-Pilchuck High School graduate then asked the Cascade students: “Who is your superhero? Who do you turn to when you are having a bad day?”
Many responded by pointing to a nearby classmate.
Dwoskin said it also could be a teacher, a parent, a neighbor… He then challenged the students to reach out and connect with someone – to be their superhero. “I hope the rest of your school year is better,” he said. “And stop the bullying.”
Principal Alene Arakawa added by stopping bullying students can “create a school we all want to attend.”
Later, Dwoskin said the kids respond so well to his message because, “I’ve gone through it.”
Superintendent Jason Thompson, who also attended, said, “I love how well the kids receive it and take it to heart.”
Arakawa said Dwoskin’s Bully Prevention Assembly was part of an effort the school has been working on this month with counselor Erica Tate. Arakawa said kindness is a school expectation of all students. Tate has been giving daily announcements with inspirational messages, and lessons are being taught in every classroom.
The principal said she liked Dwoskin’s presentation because it showed the power of one.
“A bystander can support a student who is targeted or left out because they are the object of gossip or rumors,” she said. Arakawa said the school wants to create the feeling of help and support in the classroom – like a family or community. “Help each other out. Find solutions,” she said.
Arakawa said they made a concerted effort to prove to the kids it was not only OK but essential to report bullying. They came up with the Big 5: Be respectful, Be safe, Be kind, Be in the right place, Be ready to learn.
They also came up with a definition for bullying so they know what to look for. “Bully is when someone tries to hurt or threatens to hurt your body, your feelings or your name.”
She said that helped. “There’s been an increase in reporting,” she said. “Kids figured out what’s not acceptable.”
After the presentation, Dwoskin said he was teased, harassed and physically abused in school. But Widness took him under his wing because he didn’t want Dwoskin to suffer any longer. He invited him to his house, and he became part of their family. He’s still like a brother, Dwoskin said.
“I was depressed, isolated,” he said. Widness was a “life saver.” Widness, 27, said it’s not that hard to stick up for others. It’s the right thing to do. “My parents instilled that in me at a young age,” he said Wednesday. “I believe everybody should be treated equally. Just because they have a disability doesn’t mean they’re not a great person.”
He saw that Dwoskin was being picked on so he first became his physical protector. Then his friends became Dwoskin’s friends. He said he’s proud of Dwoskin’s anti-bullying campaign. “He’s always been a go-getter. Once he gets something in his head he runs with it.”
Widness said Dwoskin’s made a big impact in his life as well. “When you surround yourself with good people you have a better quality of life,” he said.