Cary, N.C. — Nearly a third of all U.S. teenagers have been bullied at school, and it occurs most often in middle school, according to a recent study by the nonprofit Families and Work Institute.
Students at East Cary Middle School have signed pledges to stop bullying, and television basketball analyst Debbie Antonelli brought some college athletes to the school Monday to encourage the students to back up those words with action.
"Anytime you can come back to your old community, where you grew up, and be a part of something really special, making a difference, we want to do that," said Antonelli, who attended East Cary Middle and now has a niece at the school.
Antonelli, who now lives in Charleston, S.C., and covers college basketball for ESPN, CBS and Fox Sports Net, often travels to schools with her son, who's in the eighth grade, to show youths how words and actions can hurt people and how they can stop that.
"You don't want to encumber someone with negativity. You want to empower them with something positive," she said.
North Carolina State University basketball player Marissa Kastanek echoed Antonelli's message.
"I challenge you guys. Instead of looking for the flaws in somebody, look for the positives," Kastanek told the Cary students.
Meanwhile, Duke University quarterback Anthony Boone said the students should look out for each other.
"You don't realize, when you see someone getting bullied and you're standing there and you've not said anything and you walk away from the situation, you're just as guilty as that bully," Boone said.
Students said they took the message to heart.
"I saw some people touched by what they were saying," Samantha Cole said.
"It told me more to think about my actions because none of us is perfect," Todd Graham said.