Hinsdale Central group says, ‘You’ve got a friend’
Donny Kwasigroch (from left), Quin Kuhlman, and Jake Ryder rehearse a skit they will perform as members of Hinsdale Central's Break Down the Walls Club. | Chuck Fieldman—Sun-Times Media
Updated: January 14, 2013 6:09AM
HINSDALE — Perhaps it’s not surprising that a club that promotes acceptance and inclusion would have more members than it can handle.
Since 2000, the Break Down the Walls anti-bullying club has grown from a handful of members to 65.
A group of about 30 would be a lot more manageable as the students select themes and then write and perform skits, said activities director Pam Kalafut.
But the students decide the club’s size. At the end of the year, the graduating seniors in Break Down the Walls will recommend students to invite to join the club.
“You get chosen because a senior sees something in you that goes above and beyond,” Kalafut said.
Parents and others have argued that because of its mission, the club should accept all comers.
Kalafut said it’s the students who want the club to be “invitation only.” They occasionally have counseled her against inviting certain students she planned to include.
“I thought somebody was so sweet,” Kalafut said, “but the students told me that’s how she is to you.”
They saw a different side, Kalafut said. “They seem to make good judgment calls.”
Senior Evan Blust of Hinsdale, who joined the club last year, said, she didn’t know who recommended her, but did not hesitate to accept the invitation.
“The club performed at my school when I was in eighth grade,” Blust said. “I knew right away I wanted to be part of that.”
It gives an outlet to kids who do not have a lot of friends or feel like they don’t fit in, Blust said.
“Exclusion is bullying as well,” he said. “Between the (group’s) skits and videos, we let them know things are going to get better and there is always someone to talk to.”
Befriending students who are alone is the responsibility of all club members.
“That’s the daily battle. The other half is performing and the big stuff,” he said.
Julie Kanter, a senior from Clarendon Hills, said club members also must be ready “to stand up for someone.”
A lot of bullying happens online, via Facebook and Twitter, Kanter said. She knows club members who, after reading mean remarks made online, have talked to the writer in person about the nature of their comments.
Cyber bullying is the theme of the two new skits the group created this year.
Every year, the club performs at an assembly for Hinsdale Central’s sophomore class.
“That is our most important gig,” Kalafut said. “The most important is our own.”