BLOOMINGTON — Generic, anti-bullying presentations can sometimes be lost on young children, but a swashbuckling show on Thursday sent the message loud and clear.
Students in first through third grades at Corpus Christi Catholic School in Bloomington heard the tale of “Skully the Bully,” performed by their older peers and school staff.
“If it were a giant speech instead, kids would start falling asleep, but this kept things fun and kept everyone’s attention,” said seventh-grader Braden Cook.
The skit was directed and presented by Mickey Lower of Bloomington, well known locally as the Zoo Lady because of her face-painting skills.
Lower, a former Clinton teacher, created the show three years ago with help from a former student, Corey Case of Clinton.
The play focused on a group of students attending “pirate school” aboard the S.S. Integrity. The young mates, all wearing black pirate caps, learned how to sound and act like buccaneers. Soon, a new pirate student entered the stage, wearing a red cap.
She was teased by “Skully the Bully” for her different appearance, but other pirate students stood up for the new kid. The skit ended with the bully changing her ways and befriending the new student.
“It shows being different doesn't matter,” said Cook, who acted as a pirate in the play. “Whether it’s your hat color or skin color, we’re all the same.”
Sixth-grader Oliver Cowsert also impersonated a pirate in the skit. Like the bullied pirate, Cowsert is a new student at Corpus Christi.
“Everyone is nice here. I haven’t had any trouble with bullying and I have lots of new friends. Standing up for someone who is being bullied is the right thing to do. This play will stick in everyone’s minds because it’s fun,” he said.
Corpus Christi Assistant Principal Judy Clark said the school asked Lower to present the pirate show to “keep kindness at the forefront of kids’ minds.”
“We have really great kids here, but we can all, even adults, use a reminder to treat others well and celebrate our differences,” said Clark.
Eighth-grader Stephanie Gump played the bullied, new student.
“I hope we spread the message to be kind. That’s especially important in school because, as students, we grow up together and your friends really help form who you become,” said Gump. “Whenever you send that message in an interactive way, it sticks in your mind and you grow up with it.”
Lower kept the young audience’s attention by incorporating dancing, singing, jokes and a parrot puppet into the show.
“There are lots of programs about bullying, but when kids see their older peers sharing the message on stage, or their principal, it makes a bigger impact," said Lower. "Everyone gets bullied. What pulls you through are your friends. The message for kids is to stand up for their friends."
Lower wrapped the show by whipping out her paintbrush and painting a curly mustache on each member of the audience.
She is available to bring the “Skully the Bully” performance to any Central Illinois school at no cost. Interested schools can email firstname.lastname@example.org. Lower provides further educational resources with the pirate theme on her YouTube show, “Pirate Penelope & Friends.”