Packed inside Kyrene de la Sierra’s multipurpose room, hundreds of first- through fifth-grade students raised their right hands and patted themselves on the backs and collectively said to themselves, “Good job.”

During an assembly on Tuesday, Sierra was named the first “No Place for Hate” school in Arizona for its efforts against bullying.

Created by the Anti-Defamation League, the national program aims to provide a model for combating bullying and intolerance in hopes of leading to long-term solutions to problems among students.

In order for schools to be qualified for the title of “No Place for Hate,” two to three activities in a school year must be completed relating to anti-bullying.

This school year, Sierra completed eight to 10.

“First doesn’t always mean the best,” said Melissa Medvin, education director for the Anti-Defamation League, to the group of students gathered on Feb. 19. “But in your case it does.”

Since August, Sierra students and staff have been conducting school-wide activities like signing no-bullying pledges, wearing red awareness bracelets, and making paper chain links for every act of kindness recognized, demonstrated or witnessed, among others.

The chain, which united 429 paper links collected in one, was strung across one of the multipurpose room’s wall as the students heard from a handful of speakers and watched a photo slideshow of their activities throughout the year.

Students also performed a handful of skits, ranging from some typical bullying scenes in the classroom or in the hallways.

“They are just awesome,” said Principal David Maloney. “We have very little trouble anymore.”

Bill Straus, regional director for the Anti-Defamation League, said he was taken back by the students’ politeness. As he was looking for the assembly on Tuesday, students lined up outside of their classrooms and said hello to him, and led the way to their assembly.

“They immediately made me feel like I was part of their little community here,” Straus said.

Singing along to Phillip Phillip’s popular song, “Home,” the elementary students’ words struck a heart string as they reflected words that nearly every school could agree are worth striving for: “Just know you’re not alone, ‘cause I’m gonna make this place your home.”

Ahwatukee’s Kyrene de la Sierra Elementary is located at 1122 E. Liberty Lane.

For more information about the “No Place for Hate” program, visit regions.adl.org/southwest/programs/no-place-for-hate.

• Contact writer: (480) 898-4903 or dmartinez@ahwatukee.com. Follow on Twitter: @_dianamartinez.

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