Isabella Kelly, left, and Hazel Cates paint students' pinky fingers orange for anti-bullying awareness at Kyrene de la Colina on Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2012. Third-grader Hazel Cates came up with the idea for the "Stomp Out Bullying" campaign.

[David Jolkovski/AFN]

During lunch recess at Kyrene de la Colina in Ahwatukee this week, elementary school students roamed the playgrounds with orange pinky fingers or string tied to their shoes.

In honor of anti-bullying month, third-grader Hazel Cates wanted to raise awareness to the issue.

For two days, Cates set up lunch tables for each recess at school where girls could have their pinky nails painted orange — the official color for Anti-Bullying Awareness Month. Orange string was also an option for boys or girls who chose not to have their pinkies painted.

“I was just thinking of doing something to help,” Cates, 8, said. “And we make the kids promise to not bully.”

About two weeks ago, Cates presented her proposal to set up a “booth” for the pinky painting to Principal Kelley Brunner.

“One of the things we’re trying to promote is children taking leadership,” said Brunner, while overseeing the painting tables during recess on Tuesday. “This really shows even third-graders can take on this role to make change.”

Cates also enlisted fellow students Isabella Kelly, Ava Lawrence, Reese Manross, and Amelia Mitchell to help her paint pinkies.

Inspired by a similar booth at the Olympic trials for gymnastics in San Jose, Calif., this summer, Cates’ mom, Nicole, said her daughter started expressing interest in helping others a few months ago.

Though Cates said she has not been bullied, she knew of a classmate who was. She later befriended the student so they would have more friends to protect them.

“She’s my little activist,” Nicole added.

Decked out in orange shirts, hair ties, and even socks, Cates and her friends painted three or four students’ pinky fingers at a time. Most of the other students were already anticipating the painting, waiting in patient lines. Others swarmed around the small table, eager to know what was going on during their regular playtime.

Manross, also a third-grader, said she was glad that students wanted to participate.

“It’s important because people can get hurt,” Manross said. “And if you don’t tell anyone, it can keep on going.”

Just before the first bell rang, to usher in another class for recess, Cates finished up a pinky on a younger girl, then reminding her, “You have to pinky promise not to bully, OK?”

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

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