Campus organization HART fights bullying

Kaitlin Sansenbach

Hope Awareness Respect Together is an organization that works to create an open environment for people who have ever been bullied. 

This group of people at Sacramento State aims to foster hope while creating awareness and promoting respect to bring together a community of students. They do this by utilizing social media portals, cultural programs and community events. With these values, Hope Awareness Respect Together tries to build a solid foundation for understanding the effects bullying has on students, while working actively to prevent it from happening in the first place.

Social media strategist Caity Heim said she feels passionately about the morals of Hope Awareness Respect Together.

“Bullying changed my entire life,” Heim said. “Throughout high school, bullying defined the way I dressed, the classes I chose and my self-confidence. It got so bad at one point that I changed all my classes, chose to go to a different high school and felt that I never truly had real friends until my last semester of high school.”

Heim said she plans to have Hope Awareness Respect Together act as a resource for all types of students and the organization extends an olive branch of support to anyone, whether they have been a victim, bully, or bystander. Hope Awareness Respect Together tries to provide uplifting and informative messages on social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, Heim said.

Prejudices found throughout community outreach director Christie Pierce’s adventure overseas provided her motivation to be involved in Hope Awareness Respect Together.

Pierce crossed paths with hundreds of people from different backgrounds during her year abroad in Argentina – yet, she said, she found a common thought process among all of them.

“The combination of experiences I had with each individual seemed to have a repeating pattern,” Pierce said. “Almost everyone had preexisting stereotypes or assumptions about people from certain locations, whether (that person was) from (another country) or (a) different (city) within Argentina.”

According to Sac State’s fall 2012 demographics, 40 percent of students were Caucasian, 21 percent were Asian or Pacific Islander, 19 percent were Latino and 20 percent were a combination of African American, Foreign or American Indian.

Some members of the organization said they feel Hope Awareness Respect Together is meant to be a platform for a community of individuals to empathize, take action and inspire mutual respect.

Pierce, who is the leader of the organization, said her biggest hardship is her most rewarding.

“The hardest aspect about being a part of the Hope Awareness Respect Together force is to hear all of the hardships that younger kids are experiencing in our community because of bullying,” Pierce said. “This is also the best part, because it means we have an opportunity to reach out and make a difference right now in their lives.”

According to the California Department of Education, juvenile bullying can be violence in three forms: physical, verbal and psychological.

Heim said the advice the organization has given has already made an impact on the lives of younger kids.

“The best part about the organization is seeing the positive effect we have on people,” Heim said. “I love hearing that our advice has helped someone regain hope for a better day. We have also performed presentations at after school programs and it is very rewarding to have children confide in you, and then get to see the gratitude in their eyes.”

Recreations, parks and tourism alumna Lindsey Smith has been a part of the presentations Hope Awareness Respect Together performs to inspire elementary school children to stop bullying.

During Hope Awareness Respect Together’s visit to Swanston Elementary after-school program in April, the representatives helped children from rough backgrounds get over the hurdles of bullying.

“The best part was seeing the interaction the leaders of Hope Awareness Respect Together had with the children,” Smith said. “They talked and played games; it took the stress of bullying out of the picture and allowed the kids to talk freely and learn without even realizing it. Fun and education mixed together is perfect for kids.” 

The organization plans to expand and visit more schools to give students hope, raise awareness and together build respect for all walks of life.