March 18, 2024

Leesburg High’s Anti-Bullying Mission Aims for the Moon

3.4 min read| Published On: March 18th, 2024|

By Cindy Peterson

Leesburg High’s Anti-Bullying Mission Aims for the Moon

3.4 min read| Published On: March 18th, 2024|

Leesburg High’s anti-bullying mission aims for the moon.

Leesburg High School is making history with an unconventional, out-of-this-world approach to combat bullying. 

In November, years of preparation will culminate when the school digitally sends photos of students and local businesses along with other mementos on a capsule aboard a rocket to the moon.

The mission is a project of the LHS Interact Club, which partners with the local Rotary Club to raise awareness about bullying and foster a culture of kindness and inclusivity within the school. 

This will be the students’ second attempt to the moon.

“We’ve been working on this for a long time and we can’t wait until this capsule will be on the moon,” Interact Club Advisor John Bell says. “We’ve been on Mount Everest and Antarctica, but now the moon is in our sights.” 

The first mission was aborted hours after the Peregrine Lander launched by NASA experienced a fuel leak on its way to space in January. Although there was a celebration when the Peregrine made it halfway, the goal of putting Leesburg High School on the moon remains.

“We are trying to reach students,” John says. “Each year, the Interact Club comes up with projects, and the moon project is one that they really wanted to do because no one else has ever done it.” 

The club runs campaigns throughout the year to raise awareness and encourage pledges to stand against bullying. 

In one initiative, Interact placed anti-bullying pledge banners in the cafeteria. Students were invited to participate in the moon capsule project by pledging to befriend someone and not to bully.

Another initiative put kids together into accountability groups against bullying. Pictures of the group and their pledge will be included on the drive going to the moon. 

Last year, the group had nearly 700 students pledge, and that number keeps rising. 

“This is such an amazing and inspiring club,” Interact president Dabeca Adhikary says. “We have built such a strong bond together and all the interaction and service projects really help with the support against bullying.”

The idea originated with Dave van de Velde, a resident of The Villages who has made a name for himself in the vodka industry. Dave got involved because he wanted to leave an inspiring legacy.  

“I am very concerned about bullying in school,” Dave says. “Kids should know that there are opportunities… You can make it, but you have to work for it. I’m now 83 years old, and that’s what I want to leave behind.”

Dave connected with John, who is also the SkillsUSA advisor. The project took off from there.

“What can we do to make a difference?” John asks. “I was tortured as a child because of bullying. As a little kid, I was given a wedgie so bad I ended up in the hospital. I was locked in a locker for two days after a wrestling practice by football players. And now I watch my special-needs son, and he doesn’t even know they’re making fun of him. We have to reach the kids to end this.”

The club’s approach has proven itself over the past few years — bullying incidents have decreased at Leesburg High.

Photos provided by Ira Nodelman

“We took a business look at the bullying problem,” Dave says. “Everybody in education goes after the bad kids. We said don’t even talk to the bad kids. Leave them alone. Support the good kids. If you don’t do anything, then any kid in school is subject to bullying, right? Until you start getting kids to say, ‘Stop it.’” 

Throughout school hallways, it’s common to see students wearing anti-bullying buttons. 

“Fights in this school are a tenth of what they were even seven years ago,” John says. “Principal (Mike) Randolph has been a big part of that as well. This project really is making a difference.”  

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About the Author: Cindy Peterson

Originally from the small town of Berryville, Arkansas, Cindy has become a multimedia specialist in journalism, photography, videography and video editing.

She has a B.S. in Communications from the University of Central Arkansas and is a correspondent for The Daily Commercial, LakeFront TV and Beacon College’s PBS talk show, “A World of Difference,” where she received an Anthem Award and Telly Award.

When she isn’t working, Cindy spends time with her husband, Ryan, and son, David, traveling and taking photos of landscapes and wildlife.

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