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The Gainesville Sun
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Tampa Tribune Article About Hands On Hero!

Tampa Bay Online Video Footage of Hands On Hero!

Dr. Porter On Tim Wilkins Show

Program Helps Students Combat BullyingStudents participate with enthusiasm 

CLEARWATER, Fla. (Oct. 4, 2010) – Hands On Hero™ is an anti-bullying program based on recent research findings that peer-influence may be the best way to get kids to combat bullying. 


The need for such programs is bolstered by the findings of a 2002 study by the US Secret Service and the Department of Education stating that a majority of school shootings are committed by victims of bullying.  Furthermore, a recent string of bullying-related suicides were termed a crisis by outspoken talk show host Ellen Degeneres.


The Hands On Hero™ program is different than others because kids enjoy it, says one of the program developers.


“We’ve already tried a pilot version of the program at Oak View Middle School in Gainesville, Florida, and the enthusiasm from the faculty and kids was overwhelming,” said Jim Porter, who co-developed the program, and a bullying specialist who conducted research with the University of Florida showing that friend’s are more influential than parents and teachers on kids’ decisions about whether to bully or to help protect victims.


The program is set to be implemented at John Hopkins Middle School in St. Petersburg, Florida, a school that has made news for instances of student violence. 


“We’re really being proactive in trying to make John Hopkins Middle School live up to our motto – ‘A great place to be!’ Our focus is on the safety of our students and the Hands On Hero program seems to compliment the programs we  have in place by combining arts education with a focus on building affective and social skills in our students,” says Michael Vasallo, the school’s 6th grade assistant principal and arts magnet coordinator.


“When Jim [Porter] and I first discussed developing the program, I was really impressed by his desire to put his research into practice with real kids,” said Steve Turner, a highly in-demand empowerment group facilitator who uses drumming to create cooperation and reconciliation in various settings, from schools to dueling Muslim factions in Iraq.


The program capitalizes on Turner’s star power, says Porter. 


Not only will the program be in schools, but Porter and Turner have encapsulated the program into an interactive stage show that will be presented at Ruth Eckerd Hall on October 12, 2010 to as many as 2100 Pinellas County Schools students, teachers, and administrators.  The stage experience will also be presented to several Pasco County Schools at a local auditorium. 


The Ruth Eckerd Hall performance is funded by the Marcia P. Hoffman Performing Arts Institute in Clearwater.  “We educate kids in art and performance, but we also educate them through art and performance.  We’ve seen how such art-based programs make change and reach kids, when other types of programs fail to even get their attention,” stated Joyce Bonomini, director of the Hoffman Institute.  Bonomini is also responsible for in-school art-based educational programs, including the use of Hands On Hero™ at John Hopkins Middle School.


The program’s developers say Hands On Hero™ is the solution to problems found in other programs, anecdotally and in published research.  Weaknesses found in other programs include creating more work for teachers which their schedules prevent them from implementing, asking the wrong kids to intervene in bullying—a strategy that sometimes increases violence in school, neglecting the influence of peers, preaching to students instead of engaging their willing participation in hands-on training, and hit-and-run emotion-sharing experiential workshops that may leave kids more vulnerable to bullying than before because they have revealed secrets that may be used against them later.


As solutions, Hands On Hero™ uses professional trainers to do the work teachers are often asked to do.  It assists teachers in making the best of the training their students learn.  It systematically selects the right peers as leaders in anti-bullying efforts.  The program is also fun, the developers say, which leaves kids asking for more training.  In addition, the program tracks results and conducts booster sessions to cement in the training. 


Instead of punishment-oriented policies, which can actually cause “mafia-style” secrecy and retaliation, the program harnesses and amplifies protective and reconciliatory behaviors that, Porter says, studies show are already happening in most schools on too small a scale.


“Some kids and teachers are already doing what needs to be done,” says Porter, “but they are too few and all alone.  They don’t get much support.  That’s what we change with Hands On Hero.”


More of Winning Harmony in the News!!!
Jim's research on bullying has garnered some media attention.  Click below to find print and news articles about his study on children who help victims of bullying.

Mental Health Related Research

Jim has completed a study exploring why girls appear more likely than boys to help victims of school bullying. 

He has also co-authored a journal article and book chapter on the social forces that might influence our behavior in conflicts. 


Hire Dr. Porter to speak to your group!

Presentations are $200 per presentation hour.

Travel out of Gainesville, Florida area and larger audiences may incur an additional fee.

Presentations are $200 per presentation hour.Travel out of Gainesville, Florida area and larger audiences may incur an additional fee.
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