Group of SF 7th graders using QR codes, bowls of soup to tackle cyberbullying

Luz Pena Image
Wednesday, April 10, 2024
Group of SF students using QR codes, soup to tackle cyberbullying
San Francisco Children's Day School 7th graders participate in "Soup for Change" event to tackle social justice issues, including cyberbullying.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- In San Francisco, a group of middle schoolers are building a better Bay Area by bringing awareness to topics that matter the most to them. One of those topics is cyberbullying.

ABC7 News reporter Luz Pena went to the Children's Day School in the city, where students are planning an event they hope will reach tech company executives and lead to change.

The Children's Day School kitchen is far from typical. The lesson plan on the board reads: "Soup for Change."

"This is an event that happens annually in 7th grade," said student Silas Schneebeck.

TAKE ACTION: Get help with bullying and teen mental health

Who can be better than 7th graders to explain it?

"Each group picks a social justice issue that they think is important," said student Sabine Ventilla. "Then we have an event called 'Soup for Change,' where all the families come together and the students present and everybody gets to share a soup, and you pay for the soup."

Chris Wachsmith is the middle school director for the Children's Day School in the Mission. He started Soup for Change in 2017 when he was a humanities teacher at the school.

"Students are using their cooking skills from their Food and Agricultural Sciences class, merging it with topics that they are studying for social change and humanities," Wachsmith said.

MORE: Daly City high school student surprised with $25,000 scholarship from Chick-fil-A

For the last seven years, Soup for Change has lived inside the school, where only parents and faculty knew about it -- until now.

Luz Pena: "You all collectively thought, 'Let's contact the news?'"

Ryder Meindertsma: "Yes. Miles, Henry and I were like, 'We need contacts. We need to find numbers.' So, we just searched up ABC7 News and numbers popped up. We called it on the old-school phones in the school."

Seventh graders Ryder, Henry and Miles have been friends for years, and when they were assigned to work together in class to bring awareness to a topic, there was no hesitation.

MORE: Here's how group of young Bay Area students are spreading kindness 1 coffee sleeve at a time

"We came together as a group and said 'What do we want to tackle? Do we want to do mental illness or do we want to do cyberbullying?' And Miles actually was like. 'Let's do both,'" said student Henry Woollerson.

Luz Pena: "Why is this personal to you guys?"

Miles Treaster: "I have experienced cyberbullying before, and it's not something that is good for you. Talking to a therapist or stuff really helps your mental health state."

According to the CDC, reports of bullying and cyberbullying are the highest in middle school and the pandemic exacerbated their exposure.

MORE: Students urge drivers to slow down near South Bay schools in new campaign to make streets safer

"I play a lot of video games, and I go on there and I see people getting cyberbullied, and I'm thinking that it can have an effect on your mental health," Woollerson said.

That's why their Soup for Change project will be dedicated to help by putting up flyers across the city with QR codes that will lead people to the hotline, also known as the "Warm Line" for the Mental Health Association of San Francisco.

"If you need help, you can reach out through these QR codes," Treaster said.

"When people see the QR codes, my hope is that they are honest about themselves," Woollerson said.

"We want to tell people there is support out there, trying to raise awareness," Meindertsma said.

MORE: 'Taking action': North Bay teen launches awareness campaign on fentanyl dangers

They may be middle schoolers now, but also world changers in the making. They want their message to go far.

Luz Pena: "What is your message to social media companies?"

Miles Treaster: "The tech companies need to hear this and regulate their apps more, because I have seen really horrible stuff on the internet. That shouldn't be seen by anybody, let alone people our age."

These students have ideas for that change.

MORE: Palo Alto High School students develop, build fully solar-powered vehicle

"Like the app won't let you post this comment because of what it could possibly do to somebody's mental health," Woollerson said.

"There should be like verification. Some companies already have this where you have to use a passport or ID, driver's license to verify you are 18, because anyone can put 'Oh I'm over 21' on the choose your age thing," Meindertsma said.

"You should put a bunch of measures, for example, not safe content," said Treaster. "Or like, 'This is 18+. You have to sign in' or something."

As to the soup that will be used for collecting funds for their project, Miles, Ryder and Henry had a confession to make.

MORE: Dancing with the special stars: SF students show talents, art on and off stage

Luz Pena: "How good was your soup?"

Miles Treaster: "We may be good presenters but not great cooks."

We doubt that. Their brains definitely cooked up incredible recipes that will help build a better Bay Area one bowl of soup at a time.

Now Streaming 24/7 Click Here

If you're on the ABC7 News app, click here to watch live