"Project UNIFY": Sioux City Kids in Action - Siouxland News - KMEG 14 and FOX 44

"Project UNIFY": Sioux City Kids in Action

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(SIOUX CITY, IA) It was a very special day for more than 300 Sioux City kids. "Special Olympics Iowa" came to town December 7th, 2012. Students from All 4 corners of Sioux City were paired up with special needs kids to build relationships and strengthen the fight against bullying.

It's all part of the "Project Unify" Program, and the Youth forum is just the first phase of the program.

"On the bus ride down here, I turned around and all the buddies and the regular students were talking. It gave me a sense of relief, right on the bus they are creating teams and friendships," says Sherrie McDonald, a special education teacher at West high School.
 
But, the fun really begins inside.
 
"There are physical activities where there are beach balls and that type of thing," she says.
 
The students do all types of team building activities including drawing and games. In this team building match students must pick up a paint bucket with string and a rubber band, carry it to another location and place it down. Whichever team does it faster, wins!

It's a program that the Sioux City School system has been a part of since the beginning, which began five year ago.
 
"They have seen the program mature and grow and they have even been an influential part in how we grow the program, and determine how the program will go," says Michelle Haney, the Director for the Iowa Special Olympics.
 
And of course, the program wouldn't be a success without kids like Justicey, who teamed up with Austin in hopes of building a forever friendship.
 
"Were going to plan some activities to do, I think were going to go rock climbing upstairs, some weekend, we'll probably go to the movies, and other things that Austin wants to go do," says Justicey Tieck, a student at North high School.
 
Justicey says she knows first hand, what it feels like to be bullied, which is why she promises to stand up for Austin, from here on out.

A promise that means the world to Austin.
 
"It just helps your feelings inside and stuff, and it helps you understand what is going on with the bully and stuff, so sometimes if the bully keeps doing it, you just have to ignore them," says Austin Paggett, a student at North high school.

The "Mentors in Violence Prevention" program were also set up at the Youth Forum to teach kids what Bullying looks like and how they can resolve a situation when it occurs.
 
 "Were doing a scenario, actually up there, where a kids at his locker and there's a bunch of guys who come up to him and start bullying him because he's new, and he doesn't wear a sweatshirt the same, and were just trying to teach how bystanders can get in and actually help and stop the bullying and help the other kids out," says Tanner Wauhob, a sophomore at West high school.
 
"We just want to make the people feel like we're there for them, that they're not alone and so they will feel comfortable and safe," says Rogelio Serrano, a Senior at West high school.
 
The Next two phases of "Project Unify" will happen in the spring, with events like "Spread the word to end the word" and a Unified Sports day.

Hleigh@siouxlandnews.com

www.facebook.com/heatherleighKMEG

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