By Douglas M. Campbell
An anti-bullying organization called Pete’s Pledge to March Out Bullying was created at Youngstown State University in the fall 2019 semester.
The organization is sponsoring a T-shirt design competition for elementary school students. They are tasked with drawing an anti-bullying image. The winning design will be printed on 1,000 T-shirts.
Jonah Karzmer, the organizing sponsor of Pete’s Pledge and a trustee of the Penguin Club, hopes to spread more awareness to local Youngstown schools on the importance of anti-bullying through the organization and competition.
Through Karzmer’s role with the Youngstown State Penguin Club, he presented the idea of a drawing competition to the YSU athletics department. Beyond the competition, the plan for the future of Pete’s Pledge is to incorporate more of YSU’s athletic sources.
“Next is the athletic department will provide a student athlete to schools participating and eventually lead discussions in anti-bullying,” Karzmer said.
A boy in Florida was bullied for wearing his homemade University of Tennessee shirt to his elementary school for a college colors day, according to a September 2019 Washington Post article.
Laura Snyder, a fourth grade Altamonte Springs teacher, posted the incident to Facebook.
The University of Tennessee responded by printing the student’s design on officially licensed merchandise and giving him a full scholarship if he chooses to go to UT upon high school graduation.
Karzmer said he was inspired to create Pete’s Pledge after hearing about the Florida student.
“I have two daughters who are 6 and 2 years old. When I heard of what happened in Florida and how the university handled it, I wanted to bring that idea here without a kid getting bullied. I believe it was a good story to tell my daughters,” he said.
Austin Snodgrass, manager of athletic ticket sales, works closely with another community outreach organization on campus: Pete’s Reading Club. Snodgrass provided contacts with nearby schools and helped spread awareness of Pete’s Pledge.
“Jonah pitched us the idea, and we really liked it. It was an interesting idea that we could use to get schools involved locally for a good cause. That is a big issue right now,” Snodgrass said.
To secure funding for the T-shirt competition, Phantom Fireworks, Joe Dickey Electric, Dennis Mikkelsen Plumbing, The Muransky Companies and PNC Bank each donated $1,500 to the anti-bullying organization. The $7,500 provided the needed funds to print the shirt’s winning design.
City Printing in Youngstown donated the printing of 4,000 copies of the Pete’s Pledge competition application form.
Pete’s Pledge visited and passed forms out to students in Poland, Boardman, Austintown and Montessori schools. Numerous students have already submitted their artistic visions for anti-bullying.
“This is the exciting part of the competition, looking through all of the submissions and seeing what a 5- to 6-year-old’s interpretation of kindness and anti-bullying look like,” Karzmer said.
The winning design will be announced in March. Shirts are available now for preorder at petespledge.org for $15.
The proceeds will partially go to Pete’s Pledge with the other portion going to Pete’s Reading Club. More information is available at petespledge.org and on Facebook at @PETESPLEDGE.