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Toledo teens educating peers on bullying, sexting and mental health

The Teen PEP leaders at St. Francis de Sales High School are changing the way students prevent bullying in their school.

TOLEDO, Ohio — The Teen Peer Educating Peers spent their Monday teaching seventh- and eighth-graders at St. Francis de Sales lessons on bullying through presentations and interaction.

"It happens all the time, but a lot of times, people don't even know they're doing it," eighth-grader Jake Cheatwood said.

Bullying is something that many children face whether they are the ones being bullied or the ones doing the bullying. And this is especially true for middle and high school students. 

"It's an issue that I feel most people hear a lot about but they don't really know what to do about it, so they kind-of just brush it off or something," junior student and PEP member Max Irnen said. 

The leaders say they want to teach the seventh- and eighth-graders how to recognize the different forms of bullying and what can be done to stop it. 

The middle school students spoke out and talked about being victim to bullying; sometimes without them knowing it. 

"I'm going to try to help people see the other person's point of view to see what they're going through, so maybe they have a better understanding of why you need to stop doing it," Cheatwood said. 

It's not just bullying either, sexting is now included. ProMedica's Teen PEP Project Director Danielle Cisterino-Hhadu said right now is the time youth should learn about the risks because it can lead to other issues, such as depression and suicide.

"A lot of students will tell us, 'Wow, I didn't know that was that big of an issue.' Most people don't talk about suicide or sexual assault. Some of these topics are really controversial," Cisterino-Hhadu said. 

She added that if those students aren't aware of these issues then they usually won't seek out information.

The boys said the presentation wasn't just a one-day endeavor. It is something they feel can and should be implemented every day and they hope that, as mentors, they can do just that.

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