Anti-bullying group returns to WVMS for follow-up sessions


Anti-bullying group returns to WVMS for follow-up sessions

January 19, 2023

The highly-anticipated return of Sweethearts & Heroes — a student empowerment and empathy activation team that aims to prevent bullying and suicide — happened this week at Warwick Valley Middle School.

See a gallery of images from this week’s visit below this story.

The squad of “cape-less superheroes” were back to follow up on their energetic and impactful September visit, and continue giving students and educators the skills and tools to spread HOPE (Hold On Possibilities Exist!) in the school community and beyond. The Sweethearts & Heroes team of Tom Murphy, Pat Fish, and Ret. U.S. Army Sgt. Rick Yarosh were in the district on Tuesday and Wednesday.

National data continues to point to student anxiety and hopelessness still on the rise in the United States, a trend that was escalating even before COVID hit. Tom and Pat co-facilitated break-out sessions with groups of students that applied the communication method known as “Circle.” Circle is rooted in the ancient ritual of gathering in a circle to communicate, which is said to build empathy. 

See a gallery of images from this week’s visit below this story.

“Circle is an opportunity for amazing stories to be shared and heard,” said Pat. “Amazing isn’t good or bad. Some amazing stories I’ve heard are heartbreaking, others are heartwarming, others are just downright hilarious. But every single one of us has an amazing story because we all have unique experiences.”

Sgt. Rick spent the day addressing classrooms himself, sharing his unique story of hope. He encouraged students to think about the people who give hope to others. Rick, Tom and Pat refer to these carriers of hope as sweethearts. Rick asked the students if they thought he had any sweethearts when he was in the hospital.

See a gallery of images from this week’s visit below this story.

“I had people like my physical therapist who pushed me. They would push me to get out of bed and tell me, ‘you’ll never get better if you don’t get out,'” said Rick. “Do you think I liked those people at that time? No. Do you think I like them now? I love them!”

Rick refers to his experience in Iraq as the “best thing that ever happened to me.” Without that initial tragedy, he points out, he wouldn’t have the job he loves and is passionate about — visiting schools and meeting students. He points out that he may never have met married his wife or welcomed his two daughters.

“Good things can come out of bad situations,” Rick assured the students, encouraging them to be resilient, to let go of negative emotions like hate, and to embrace positivity and hope. 

Sweethearts & Heroes have been at it for 15 years, and estimate they’ve reached more than two million students, civic and non-profit group members from New England to Hawaii.


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