With rally towels whipping around, students from Francis Hopkinson School welcomed Phillies pitcher Aaron Nola to Juniata Park on Wednesday, January 23rd.
Major League Baseball, ESPN and X Games partnered with schools across the country in their “Shred Hate, Choose Kindness” campaign. Nola made this special visit to Hopkinson in order to honor the students for their great efforts in the campaign.
‘Shred Hate’ is a bullying prevention program created by ESPN, supported by Major League Baseball and X Games, that seeks to eliminate bullying by encouraging kids to choose kindness.
Nola said that he was bullied while attending middle school in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Phillies Broadcaster Tom McCarthy, who emceed the event, asked him about some of the ways that he and his teammates have shown kindness to each other.
Nola said that whether winning or losing, his teammates say hello and give each other hugs. “Good days or bad days, there’s always guys in the clubhouse that make you laugh,” Nola told the Hopkinson students. “That’s what it’s all about”. He added that later in life, the players won’t remember the bad games, but rather they’ll remember who’s a real teammate.
Two students were given special honors for their courage in overcoming bullying. Haley Higgins and John Kennedy got to meet Nola and tell him some of their story.
Haley, in 4th Grade, told the Juniata News that she’s very happy because the more you stop bullying, the more fun everyone has.
John, in 5th Grade, is having a great time in school now. “It’s awesome,” he told the Juniata News. “It’s beautiful when you get to make a change, not only for yourself, but for everybody.”
Amanda Alden, School Counselor (K-4th), praised Haley and John as being “super awesome”. She said that the event was amazing because a lot of the school’s staff are huge Phillies fans. “It’s really exciting!”
Hopkinson School Principal Margaret Shriver is one of those huge fans. “Been loving the team since I can remember,” she said excitedly. “My mom used to take me to Veterans Stadium. We always watched the Phillies.”
The students have been learning to make positive choices in the “Shred Hate, Choose Kindness” campaign. Shriver said that their goal is to end bullying and for the students to become ambassadors for peace. “Each day they’re choosing kindness and shredding hate, rather than being part of the problem.”
The program has been working. Shriver sees that the students are friendly and they’ve become more receptive to other students. They’re not waiting for the teacher to tell them how to behave. They’re monitoring each other’s behavior, reminding each other to choose kindness and shred hate.
Haley and John are two great examples of how the entire student body is acting. “They don’t want kids to eat alone in the cafeteria,” said Shriver. “They don’t want kids to be ostracized. They want to bring them into their group and make them part of their circles.”
The school is also seeing a decrease in social media bullying complaints. The students are taught to stay out of bullying conversations, and instead just report it.
“I am so proud of John and Haley,” said Shriver. “They are amazing students. They are great representatives for the Shred Hate, Choose Kindness program, and I’m extremely proud of all my students at Hopkinson.”