Ryan Warren has put in hours of work raising awareness against bullying. He has created pledge cards, stickers and bracelets. He has spoken at the Sanger City Council, set up booths at city events to promote his cause and even held his own rally.
It’d be a lot for anyone to take on, much less a fourth-grader like Ryan. On Thursday he will be recognized for his efforts by the City Council.
Ryan, 10, has attended Hallmark Charter School in Sanger since leaving Centerville Elementary in January. He got the idea for his campaign, Stand Up & Be Heard: Stop Bullying Now, after being harassed by some students at Centerville.
When Ryan approached his mother with the idea to launch the campaign, “I thought it was pretty cool,” mom Sheila Warren said. She helps Ryan with tasks like managing a Facebook page. “It was just after I pulled him out of Centerville in January. He started asking me, ‘Can we go to all the schools and talk to the schools about bullying?’”
Within days of his transfer, Ryan and his mother had set up the Facebook page and began working toward that goal. Initially, the Sanger Unified school board wasn’t receptive, so in March the Warrens set up a booth at Sanger’s Blossom Trail 10K run. They picked up donors along the way as well, including the Sanger Women’s Club, Sanger Rotary and Sequoia Chevrolet. Those sponsors allowed them to create the pledge cards, stickers and bracelets.
“We spend probably close to 10 hours a week working on it (the campaign),” Sheila Warren said. “Some of it we do together, like deciding what our next events are going to be.”
Ryan was quick to clarify the division of responsibilities.
“I usually do all the events and she usually does the page,” said Ryan.
According to his mother, Ryan was constantly teased, pinched and kicked by his classmates at Centerville. The worst of it centered on a disability.
“He was born with a severe bilateral club foot and last summer he had to start wearing braces, and the kids made fun of him so much he refuses to wear them now,” said his mother.
In launching the campaign, Ryan has had to overcome many obstacles, some external and some internal.
“His biggest challenge is public speaking. He clams up. He gets really scared,” said his mother.
“I can’t talk,” said Ryan, hiding behind his mother’s arm as he spoke.
That shyness wouldn’t stop him, though. He has fought through it and summoned confidence when he’s needed to in the name of his cause.
“Doing all of this stuff and talking at my rally and talking at the City Council meetings has helped,” said Ryan. “People I don’t know, if they’re on the board (City Council), I’ll go up to them and talk to them now.”
The rally, called “Say NO to Bullies & Drugs,” was held at the end of May in Sanger. Daniel Galvez, recreation supervisor for Sanger’s Parks and Recreation Department, helped Ryan and his mother set up the rally.
Ryan then went to the City Council and asked for approval.
The rally was attended by 150 people and included guest speakers, skits, a dance off, free lunch and “Bully Bingo,” a version of the popular game meant to educate people about the warning signs of bullying and what they can do to prevent it. The success of that rally led to Ryan and his mother being recognized on Thursday.
Sheila Warren says their work is far from done. “Stand Up & Be Heard: Stop Bullying Now” will have a booth at Sanger’s July Fourth festivities and on Aug. 4 at Sanger’s version of “National Night Out,” a time for residents to gather together as a community. In the meantime, Ryan and his mother attend two community meetings every month, and this fall Ryan will finally get the chance to take his message to the schools of Sanger.
Ryan doesn’t need to wait for fall, though. He has friends back at Centerville who are still being bullied that remind him every day of the importance of the work he’s doing. He had some advice for kids who find themselves being bullied.
“Try not to put up with it. As soon as you’re away from it, tell a parent or a teacher or an adult that you trust.”
Michael Olinger: (559) 441-6141