Polina Milter said when she attended Dunwoody High School bullying ranged from name calling to “complete avoidance.” In some cases, Milter said she would walk up to a group of students to try to join their conversation, only to be completely ignored.
Milter, who graduated from Dunwoody in 2009, now attends Georgia Perimeter College. Last year she founded The Push Back, a nonprofit group formed Project to combat bullying and help students cope with being bullied.
“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, so we can answer questions and they can tell us their stories.”
The nonprofit recently held its first meeting and nearly 40 students of all ages crowded into Dunwoody restaurant Gyro, Gyro, which is sponsoring the organization. Additionally, Joli Kobe in Sandy Springs is allowing the organization to hold monthly meetings at its location as well.
“We did some activities and we did some social games,” Milter said. “We were trying to get the attendees to meet new people. I was talking to one girl’s mom after it was over and she said her daughter didn’t want to leave.”
In addition to the large turnout of students at the meeting, Dunwoody City Council member John Heneghan and members of the Dunwoody Police Department were present to show their support.
“It was so great because it really showed that the community cared about what we are doing and they were full of support,” Milter said.
The Push Back Project is working alongside the DeKalb County School District’s antibullying program, which asks students to take a pledge and sign their names 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 is only a piece of paper.
Currently, Milter said, the organization is raising money by selling T-shirts and has had booths at several local events and concerts to spread the word and accept donations.
“It costs a lot to make a project like this start and we’re raising the money now to make sure we give everyone the help that they need,” Milter said.
Aside from providing awareness of bullying, a large part of the organization is providing a support group for victims. Milter said all of the money raised will go toward expanding the activities at each meeting and bringing in guest speakers such as teachers, therapists and other antibullying supporters.
“If all things go according to the plan—the best case scenario—I would like to open up a location for students to go after school if they want to just hang out and meet new people. This program is a lot about building support groups and if we had a location we can have people supporting each other every day,” Milter said.
Milter said without the help of schools, parents and faculty, bullying will continue to be an ongoing problem. Additionally, she said it was important for The Push Back Project representatives to speak with members of the PTA because “sometimes the teachers can’t see bullying but the parents can.”
Milter said it’s 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.
Currently, The Push Back Project is having a contest for artists. Those interested in designing a T-shirt for the organization can email Milter at email@example.com.
The Push Back Project’s next meeting will take place Sept. 8 at 5 p.m., at Joli Kobe Bakery and Café, located at 5600 Roswell Road NE in Atlanta.