Radford University and community rallies against bullying
RADFORD — More than 100 students, faculty and community members met on the lawn in front of Heth Hall on Radford University’s campus Friday to rally against bullying.
Many of those gathered wore purple clothing to support the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation event called Spirit Day, a part of a nationwide rally involving universities, organizations and celebrities. On the rainbow flag, the color purple symbolizes spirit.
The first Spirit Day event was organized by a high school student in 2010 who wanted to show support for the LGBT youth community and take a stand against bullying.
At Radford on Friday, tables were set up on the lawn with information on various clubs on campus that supported the anti-bullying initiative. Live music, inflatables and games provided entertainment for participants.
Radford’s event was organized by sophomore Jordan Addison, who was named the university’s Spirit Day ambassador by GLAAD for 2012.
In March, Addison’s car was vandalized at his home in Max Meadows when someone scratched homophobic slurs into the paint of his 1999 Volkswagen Passat. For reasons unclear, several subsequent acts of vandalism occurred in the weeks after the initial incident.
Richard Henegar Jr., the owner of Quality Auto Paint & Body in Roanoke, heard about the vandalism and reached out to help Addison. Addison’s car received a surprise makeover in Henegar’s shop in August.
The act of kindness received national attention, including from talk show host Ellen DeGeneres. Both men flew out to Burbank, Calif., and appeared on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, which aired Sept. 10.
Addison said the experience was “unbelievable” and hoped it did its part to help bring awareness to the mission of Spirit Day and what it should mean to the Radford campus.
“There are a lot more allies here than I thought were on campus, and it’s good to see the administration out here,” Addison said. “We have a lot of students that want to bring awareness to this kind of thing, and there’s a need for a bigger presence against bullying and discrimination on campus.”
Several members of Radford University’s administration spoke at the rally in support of Spirit Day.
President Penelope Kyle was unable to attend the rally due to a prior engagement, but prepared a statement that was read by Dean of Students Don Appiarius.
“Radford University recognizes that each person’s strengths and unique talents contribute to the whole; a diverse, vibrant and nurturing academic community,” Kyle wrote. “We are committed to maintaining and fostering a campus climate that is both fair and always inclusive.”
Senior Abby Odendhal, who participated in Friday’s event, said she has personally been affected by bullying.
“I was bullied in high school and middle school,” Odendhal said. “I’m president of a belly dance club, and I’m here to support being beautiful no matter who you are.”
Odendhal said she believes a lot of people think bullying stops after high school, but that’s not the case.
Senior Justine Jackson, Odendhal’s friend, said she’s had many friends who have been affected by bullying and even had “slurs” shouted at them.
“The fact of the matter is, what happens if you do have a friend that’s scared to speak up?” Jackson said.
“This event is about telling people it is OK to be you and speak up about bullying.”
The Roanoke Times | 381-8627
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