IF YOU GO
What: Bullying fundraiser
When: 6:30 p.m. Feb. 25
Where: Kingdom Center at Olivet Baptist Church, 740 E. M.L. King Blvd.
Tickets: (423) 760-1314.
Throughout elementary and middle school, Jasmine Scruggs witnessed the continual bullying of certain friends and classmates.
It outraged her, but she said many of her peers and teachers responded with apathy.
"It's just like a rite of passage -- like it's OK," said the 17-year-old Scruggs. "But it's not."
Now a senior at Tyner Academy, she's focused much of this school year on the issue of bullying. For her required senior project, she's planning a February event to raise awareness and money to combat bullying in local schools.
Scruggs said she's always been irked by bullying, but she decided to take action after reading a 2010 Times Free Press story about a local eighth-grader who wrote a letter to his principal and the superintendent, asking to switch schools because of ongoing bullying.
"We really don't deserve that," Scruggs said. "School is a place for learning. You shouldn't have all those extra problems. You shouldn't be scared going to school. It's sad. It's disgusting."
Scruggs' event, set for Feb. 25, will feature poetry, dance and songs by local youths that address bullying.
"I want it to be so many people that it's overflowing," she said. "How could we sit around and act like this is OK?"
All proceeds from the fundraiser will go to Students Taking a Right Stand, or STARS, a nonprofit that works closely with Hamilton County Schools to support a healthy school environment. The group also works with teachers and students on combating bullying.
Scruggs hopes the fundraiser will allow more anti-bullying training for teachers.
"If this issue is taken up by the teachers and they make it known that it's a problem, then that will make a difference to a child," she said.
STARS Executive Director Karen Glenn said she was impressed by Scruggs' initiative in organizing the fundraiser for the cause.
"It reflects that STARS it targeting a real need, and this validates what we do to the greatest extent," she said. "Hamilton County has countless student leaders, but Jasmine's involvement is the first time a student has narrowed support to a specific topic."
In addition to the performances, the event will include a motivational speech from Patrick Hampton, the program director for Goodwill of Chattanooga's Youth Advantage, a peer mentoring program.
He met Scruggs in one of the mentoring courses he teaches at Tyner, classes that give students ways to resolve issues among themselves without having to get adults involved.
"I don't believe that adults really are the solution to bullying," Hampton said. "I believe teenagers and students have the power to stop bullying in their schools."
He said he's proud of Scruggs for taking a lead on the issue.
"I consider her one of the outcomes we're looking for," he said. "She became an activist."