By Lena Rodriguez
According to the CDC, suicide is the third leading cause of death in young people, and bully victims are more likely to consider or attempt suicide than those who have not been bullied. In total, more than 4,000 teen and young adult deaths happen each year due to suicide. On Friday, March 6 Friday Night Live (FNL) and Link Crew hosted Grim Reaper Day to fight this problem.
“Grim Reaper Day is an event meant to focus on all the people who take their own lives, and to raise awareness of all the people that stay quiet. It is not just about putting a stop to bullying. It’s more about letting people know what the consequences of it are, in hopes that it’ll lead to the end of it all together,” senior and vice-president of FNL and member of Link Crew, Rachelle Rivera said.
FNL is a club at Bonita Vista High School that promotes awareness on the abuse of drugs, tobacco, alcohol, and bullying. Link Crew is a group of upperclassmen who help freshman transition into high school.
“[We] worked together because Venissa is president of both clubs and both try to promote awareness of things. It was an easy decision to get both clubs involved,” senior peer counselor and club member of both Link Crew and FNL, April Cardenas said.
Members of both clubs are encouraged to serve as role models and promote healthy lifestyles.
“I hope students realize that all forms of bullying are an issue whether it’s a joke or not. People don’t understand that words do hurt and some may have problems at home and attacking someone on purpose just adds to them believing they don’t belong,” sophomore and FNL club member, Vere Ledesma said.
During the event, two “grim reapers,” dressed in all black, went into different classes and took a pre-picked person out of class and they had their face painted white while an obituary was read in front of their classmates. That student became a “walking dead” and was not allowed to speak or have any kind of communication for the rest of the day in order to represent that they passed away.
“It really put things into perspective because I would look around the classroom and see how life and class was going on without me,” junior and FNL club member Elizabeth Alberti said about her experience as a “walking dead.”
That same day, a “graveyard” was set up in the quad during lunch where the “walking dead” laid under white sheets with tombstones behind them while senior and club President of FNL and Link Crew, Venissa Ledesma, gave a speech on bullying and suicide.
“[The walking dead] commemorate the people who have lost their lives due to suicide…Every 2.2 hours a young adult commits suicide [and] everyday people are affected by bullying, but suicide is 100% preventable,” Ledesma said in her speech.
Along with the obituaries, speech and presentation, a video was also made showing what it was like to be bullied. This video was shown in social science classes if the teacher allowed it.
“We wanted to create something that shows what a kid goes through when they are bullied or harassed and why they would commit suicide. We wanted to show a different angle of suicide,” senior and director of the video, Joseph Morales said.
Originally, the focus of Grim Reaper day was to prevent distracted driving, but Ledesma redesigned the purpose.
“Mr. Alvarez and I felt that bullying and suicide were subjects that needed to be focussed on, because other events have taken or will take place that address other issues like distracted driving and drugs,” Ledesma said
This is the first year Bonita Vista High School hosted Grim Reaper Day, but events similar to these have been held at other schools in the SUHS district.
“Last year, I went to a TUPE (Tobacco Use Prevention Education) conference, where I met with leaders at a workshop from other schools in this district. A girl I talked to from Eastlake was telling me about [Grim Reaper Day] and I thought it was interesting. I went home and researched it more. I thought it would be a good idea to bring the event to Bonita,” Ledesma said.
Although some students did not take the presentation seriously or have the chance to see the video, FNL and Link Crew members continue to remain optimistic.
“I would do Grim Reaper Day every day if I had to. I was beyond proud of myself and everyone else who participated in this event. It wasn’t just some little school presentation we were assigned to do. We willingly agreed and signed up for what we did, it was truly an amazing event in my eyes,” senior and FNL and Link Crew club member, Sarah Tamayo said.