Several Greenback School students hope a club competition will curb bullying. Students in the Health Occupations Students of America will be utilizing a school assembly and Friday evening's basketball game to raise awareness. Judy D'Ooge, health science teacher and HOSA faculty advisor at Greenback, said the events are part of an annual HOSA competition. The students decided to address bullying at this year's competition after hearing about incidents in local schools. "The students, the ones that are doing the competition, they are learning leadership skills," D'Ooge said. "They are learning how to work as a team, how to compete. They get the exposure of being around kids all over the state to present their projects. "The students at Greenback, this problem of bullying hopefully will be diminished so that they have a safer environment to come to school in," she said, adding HOSA students plan on sticking with the campaign even after the competition. "The problem is still going to be there," she added. After tallying results from a survey for Greenback middle and high school students, D'Ooge feels bullying is a problem locally. D'Ooge said 65-70 percent of students said they have been bullied by two or more of their peers. "A lot of people said that people just leave them out of their groups, but our biggest things are cyberbullying with text messages, and that's really hard to control because everybody is texting these days," D'Ooge said. "There have been some pretty evil things texted to other students, and so we are trying. I don't know if we will be able to deal with that totally, but we're trying." Madison Spencer, a junior and HOSA club member, wanted to provide classmates an opportunity to escape bullying. "From personal experience, I've had other girls text me mean things. I thought the way it made me feel when I got those text messages I'm sure that other people have felt the same way, and it really hurts," Spencer said. "So I wanted to make sure everyone had the same opportunity as me to be able to talk to someone. "Of course, with my medical teacher I had someone to talk to about it, but not everyone feels comfortable," she said. "I thought if we had groups of therapists - people they don't know - they might feel comfortable opening up about themselves. ... If I get some people to open up that would be really good." "We definitely have a problem," D'Ooge said. "Our surveys show that, and of course some kids aren't the most honest when they do a survey like that, but obviously the students who are helping with this have firsthand knowledge that it is happening." Greenback HOSA members will present the project to a panel of judges at regionals Feb. 1 at Roane State Community College in Harriman. If they advance, they will compete at state and possibly national levels. At Friday's assembly, a speaker will address middle and high school students. High school students will break into small groups for discussion. "We do have a problem here," D'Ooge said. "We have identified certain teachers that are like a safe house. If they feel like they can't handle it there are people they can go to to get help or talk about issues. There are students they can talk to. We want to get the word out that you're not in this alone. We're there to help you if you need it. Don't do anything drastic. It's kind of a multidimensional project that we are working on." Students have also created posters to address the pains of bullying. D'Ooge said students will host a blackout at Friday's basketball game to bring community awareness to the growing problem.