Polina Milter and Taylor Goode attended Dunwoody High School, were friends on Facebook, but never actually spoke to each other until Goode realized they had more in common than just the same circle of friends.
Earlier in the year, Milter was interviewed on CBS for a piece on bullying that Goode watched. After realizing both had been targets of bullying at Dunwoody, Goode sent Milter a message asking if she wanted to get together.
“It’s something that we’re both very passionate about,” Goode said. “You’re never going to be able to eliminate bullying completely but my goal is to make it so people aren’t helpless to it.”
Milter, who graduated in 2009 and now attends Georgia Perimeter College, said they got together and brainstormed ways to help other students in the same situation as they found themselves.
“One of the big problems about being bullied is that you don’t have anyone in your corner, and it’s you against the world,” Goode said.
The girls decided to form a support group and an after school program. On Dec. 15, Milter and Goode started The Pushback Project and began developing a proposal to present to Dunwoody High’s Principal Rodney Swanson.
“We actually met with the principal of Dunwoody High School [Jan. 3] about getting them on board. The principal said he would get with the county and hopefully he would have an answer by the end of January,” Goode said.
When Milter attended Dunwoody, she said the bullying ranged from name calling to “a complete avoidance,” which, for her, was the worst. She said in some cases she would walk up to a group of students and try to get involved in a conversation and be completely ignored. Goode said they created The Pushback Project to develop some accountability for bullying.
“Even when I spoke up nothing was done. They just kind of went through the motions and people get away with it and nothing ever changes,” Goode said.
The Pushback Project is working alongside the DeKalb County School System’s anti-bullying program, which asks students to take a pledge and sign their name at the beginning of each school year. Titled “Resolution of Respect,” the pledge asks students to combat prejudice, stop those who violate the civil rights of others and create a community where there is “No Place for Hate.” However, Milter said the pledge was only a piece of paper.
School spokesman Walter Woods said the school system hoped to be able to incorporate The Pushback Project into its anti-bullying program.
“We’re happy to work with community groups and we have worked with the Anti-Defamation League to develop the anti-bullying pledge. From our point of view bullying has to be addressed at the school and the community level, it can’t stop at the schoolhouse door,” Woods said.
Although Milter and Goode are still working out details of their project, they’ve already found a sponsor and are working toward establishing The Pushback Project as a 501-(c)-3 non-profit organization. Gyro Gyro, a business in Dunwoody, has agreed to sponsor them and host a support group for bullying victims twice a month. Additionally, the organization is currently raising money by selling T-shirts designed by local artist Max Williams. Milter and Goode plan to develop The Pushback Project into a network throughout schools within the county system.
“We want to talk to principals, teachers and stuff like that,” Milter said. “We want to go from classroom to classroom so people can talk to us, we can answer questions and they can tell us their stories.”
Both Goode and Milter said without the help of schools, parents and faculty, bullying will continue to be an ongoing problem. Additionally, they said it was important for The Pushback Project representitives to speak with members of the PTA because “sometimes the teachers can’t see bullying but the parents can.”
“I want to let people know that they can fight bullying, and I know that if I had someone else other than my parents in my corner it would have made a huge difference,” Goode said.
Milter and Goode both said it is important for a victim of bullying to know there is always someone who can help or who, in most cases, is going through something similar.
“People can be there for each other. If they don’t feel comfortable contacting someone they know then they can contact us,” Milter said.