Transforming communities begins in the classroom. One School of Communication (SoC) agent of change has used her role to help SoC graduate students help the off-campus community.
Patty Franz, an administrative assistant for the SoC, was picking up her granddaughter from school. Bounding towards the little girl with tears streaming down her face. During the car ride home, Franz’s granddaughter told her that school bullies were planning to attack the girl that afternoon.
Franz immediately realized that a change would need to occur within local elementary schools to give young students with safer learning environments. With the help of SoC graduate students, Franz banded together a coalition that would help combat bullying in the local Bloomington-Normal schools.
“We’ve gotten so much great feedback about the work we have already done, so we want the group to move forward and do even more.”
Right in her own living room in 2009, Franz held a meeting with some loyal students who were looking to make an impact in the local community. “A request for volunteers was put out,” said Franz. “We went from four volunteers to 20. They all came over to my house and we sat there together and decided what we were going to do.”
That meeting birthed TRANSFORMERS. Though it shares a name with the popular action movie saga, the meaning behind the name is so much more. The TRANSFORMERS name stands for the following: Teaching conflict resolution, Reinforcing positive morals and values, Addressing community issues, Nourishing dreams and aspirations, Sharing compassion with others, Forming plans for progress, Overcoming personal obstacles and interpersonal challenges, Responding to the needs of your peers, Making personal changes for the better, Educating others about the impacts of bullying, Respecting others unconditionally, and Sharing ways to help end bullying.
Since 2009, the group has done just that: transforming their local community. TRANSFORMERS has been instrumental in cultivating safer environments in local elementary schools through its educational approaches to ending bullying. Guidance counselors and teachers have also helped in the development of programs to guide students into making smarter decisions.
“If you talk to all the grad students, they will tell you that it is really fulfilling to work with those kids.”
Even with so much change already made, the group is looking to make a larger impact in the future. “Next year, they will begin working on social emotional learning skills with the help of some amazing guidance counselors,” said SoC graduate student and TRANSFORMERS President Kameron Williams. “We’ve gotten so much great feedback about the work we have already done, so we want the group to move forward and do even more.”
Since its birth, the program has included Illinois State University social work students in the efforts to end bullying. No matter the major, every graduate student involved has benefited from the TRANSFORMERS experience. “If you talk to all the grad students, they will tell you that it is really fulfilling to work with those kids. Sometimes kids ask the mentors to come to their extracurricular activity events, like basketball and basketball games,” said Franz. “This gives the graduate students a feeling of self-worth.”
TRANSFORMERS is preparing for another eventful school year with through summer recruitment and fall 2019 training and orientation sessions. The SoC has continued to support TRANSFORMERS by encouraging graduate students to use their superior skills in basic course instruction and communication skills through the mentorship Bloomington-Normal students to help prevent bullying.
Any story ideas or general feedback? Please contact Pete Smudde.