Scherrer Cares contributes to anti-bullying effort
By Jason Arndt
From the moment Drew Halbesma saw nationally known BMX rider Matt Wilhelm deliver a powerful anti-bullying message at his previous school, Lake Geneva Middle School, the new Wheatland Center School principal knew he had to get Wilhelm into share his message again.
On Sept. 8, with more than 500 students cheering, Wilhelm performed the tricks that made him an X Games medalist, a world championships silver medalist and United States National Champion.
Halbesma, who served as assistant principal of LGMS, made it one of his first orders of business when he came to Wheatland Center School.
“Coming in, I was very strategic in getting him to come in right away and set the tone for the year,” stated Halbesma, as he recalled his first meeting with Wilhelm.
“He had a great message, in my previous school district … His message is outstanding.”
That message comes from his experience growing up in Chicago suburb Oak Lawn, where he, too, was a victim of bullying.
Wilhelm, who has spoken at more than 300 schools, said it is imperative to convey a positive message.
“Kids really need to hear a story with a happy ending,” Wilhelm said. “Whenever I hear bullying in the news, it’s always a sad story about suicide and things like that.”
“Kids really need to see that there are people that go through a tough time, but people come out stronger. I think the story of resilience and persistence is really the most important thing to hear,” he added.
In addition to Wilhelm’s message, the school received a Buddy Bench from Scherrer Cares, a nonprofit organization launched by Burlington-based Scherrer Construction in 2014 as a method of giving back to the community.
According to Halbesma, the message combined with the Buddy Bench, reinforces the Positive Behavioral Intervention Support model introduced by the Department of Public Instruction.
PBIS is a program that offers support on multiple levels to help ensure behavioral success.
“Our PBIS program and our behavior expectations are a priority for us,” Halbesma said. “At the start of the year, we always try to emphasize our positive behaviors and expectations for our kids.”
Scherrer Construction’s Marketing Associate Haley Torgerson, who presented the Buddy Bench, said, “it’s a symbol” for students to curb bullying and to help those affected by it.
Halbesma agreed, noting the new addition is a reminder of the school’s all-inclusive mission.
“If you see someone having a hard time, help that person out, instead of joining the crowd,” he said, noting the school is grateful to Scherrer Construction for its efforts.
“It is a great thing that Scherrer Construction does. It’s a great symbol for what we are all about.”
Wheatland Center School is the 12th Southeast Wisconsin school to receive a Buddy Bench, and sixth in Western Kenosha County. Riverview School has the honor as the first in the area.
The first overall, however, was at an Omro-area school.
Once a school approves the design and color scheme, construction of the Buddy Bench takes about two months, Torgerson reported.
Following the assembly, Wilhelm said student reactions were a reminder of where he once was, a student bullied for doing tricks on the playground.
“It’s awesome, because I used to get made fun of for doing tricks, and now kids want my autograph, it’s kind of gone full circle here,” he said.