Brooke Eyler

Brooke Eyler

PURCHASE LINE — Brooke Eyler is doing her best to make a difference in the Purchase Line school district.

Eyler, the 15-year-old sophomore class president, is the leader of a new movement called “You Belong.”

The group is promoting leadership, anti-bullying and culture building throughout the school.

“To sum it up, ‘You Belong’ is a movement designed to show students that kindness and positivity is the root of everything,” Eyler said Monday night in a letter she read to school board members. “As a whole, we would like to see the Purchase Line student body accept everyone and embrace each other’s differences.

“To call ‘You Belong’ a club or an organization defeats the purpose. By going to Purchase Line, you belong.”

Eyler said she got the idea for the movement after attending a leadership conference at Lock Haven University in late October with nine other Purchase Line students.

“We realized then how much power we have to make a difference in Purchase Line,” she said. “I have been meeting with my group of peers ever since the conference to discuss how we can make our vision come true.”

Eyler said she and three juniors — Taylor Ward, Bria Small and Makenna Stover — presented the idea to their classmates during an assembly at the school Dec. 14.

“We stressed how incredibly important it is that it’s time we stop complaining and start working to make a difference together,” Eyler said. “The reason I think ‘You Belong’ has the potential to be effective is that it is student-based.

“Instead of adults taking action based on observations, it’s students taking action from experience.”

Eyler told the board her group has been busy creating posters with various messages displayed on them. The posters, approximately 30, are located on the walls throughout the high school.

“We have been painting posters and creating messages to hopefully make at least one student’s day better,” Eyler said. “The response we have been getting is phenomenal. Many students are interested, but I have an urge to reach students no club or sport has before.

“For now, those who are involved are mainly the students that are naturally included in everything possible and do many activities. There are many students at Purchase Line that think they have to be selected or make a cut in order to be involved. We are going to find a way to reach these students.”

Two weeks ago, Eyler said her group invited other students to stay after school and help paint posters and learn more about the group.

“We had about 15 people come and they all enjoyed it very much,” she said. “My goal for the next session is trying to figure out a way to include people that are not interested in painting, but still want to spread positivity, and again reach out to those who feel they don’t belong.”

Eyler said she has created Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat accounts for “You Belong.”

“We have countless followers from others in the community that do not attend Purchase Line, but support this movement,” she said. “I know that in order to be as effective as possible, we must reach out to the community, too.

“We had T-shirts made and hope to make them available to students in the near future. We’ve thrown around other ideas like buying bracelets to give out to the student body. Because we want to go about this the right way, we’re taking our time deciding our next steps to make them as effective.”

Anyone with suggestions on the “You Belong” movement should contact Eyler at 21eylerb@plsd.k12.pa.us or high school guidance counselor Belinda Lambie, who has been overseeing the group, at lambieb@plsd.k12.pa.us.

“With your help, I’m excited to make the Purchase Line community a positive place where everyone belongs,” Eyler said.

Eyler’s other activities include Future Business Leaders of America, volleyball, cheerleading and student council.

High school principal James Price and Superintendent Shawn Ford praised Eyler and her group for their efforts.

“This whole thing is student-centered and this group is doing a tremendous job of encouraging students to stay positive,” Price said. “I see all of the posters on the wall. I’m very proud of them.”

“Movements start small and become greater through hard work,” Ford said. “It starts with one or two students, then becomes four or five and continues to grow. That’s what I see happening here. It’s very impressive.”

In other news, the school board:

• Learned from Ford that the district received a $35,000 targeted grant to help prepare students to use computers and technology in their careers.

The grant is part of an $8.7 million program announced Thursday by Gov. Tom Wolf and represents the next phase of his PAsmart initiative.

Ford said approximately 75 percent of the money will be applied toward computers and technology and the other 25 percent will go toward training.

• Hired Mikhala Stover as assistant softball coach for this season at an entry level salary of $2,000.

• Appointed Janessa Hardesty as assistant track coach at a salary of $2,030.

• Approved the school/community picnic May 25 at Idlewild & SoakZone Park near Ligonier.

• Granted authorization to request bids to replace exterior doors at the high school.

• Approved an additional six-month leave of absence for Elizabeth Lechner, instructional aide, through the end of the school year.

Ron Musselman is an award-winning writer who covers sports and news for The Indiana Gazette.