By Diana Sanchez/@_DianaMarie185
Roland Alvarado knows a lot about bullying. As a child, he was overweight and had a hard time making friends in school.
One afternoon, Roland sketched the face of an imaginary friend, Rosco, on a napkin. That imaginary friend was someone Roland could talk to and share his experiences with.
“Rosco did not have a real face or color to him,” Roland said. “I just knew he was my friend and he cared about what I had to say.”
Today, Rosco Red has evolved into an anti-bullying marketing campaign and sends a positive anti-bullying message out to middle and high schools across the South Side of San Antonio.
Brothers Roland and Israel Alvarado launched their anti-bullying marketing campaign three years ago. Rosco Red is now at the forefront of anti-bullying messages on T-shirts and ball caps, and the brothers rely on visuals, statistics and their own experience with bullying to send out positive messages to middle and high schools.
Recalling his childhood, Roland remembers his parents never discouraging him from seeing his imaginary friend Rosco. That was a blessing, he said, because his parents’ encouragement made him believe in Rosco, and the man he is today.
Roland’s brother, Israel, 11 years older, did not attend school with him. It was hard for his brother to understand what he was going through.
“We never interacted with each other, this project brought us together,” said Roland.
More than 70 percent of 6-12th grade students say they have seen bullying in their school while 28 percent of students were victims of bullying and 9 percent of students are cyberbullied according to StopBullying.gov.
“Our presentation is more of a performance rather than a speech or lecture,” said Roland. “We try to give the students real-world examples.”
At other times, the campaign relies on local or national celebrities, such as Eva Longoria and A.B. Quintanilla, to reinforce the message.
Rosco Red a voice for the South Side community
Now Rosco is the voice of confidence for kids in the community.
“People don’t have the education on anti-bullying,” Roland Alvarado said. “If we can get the message across as a group that bullying is uncool, then it will be.”
“No Mas (No More) Hate” and “Red connects us all” are some of the messages used in their campaign. Roland says if you tell kids not to hate, and that “it’s cool” to be kind to one another, it can make a difference.
Rosco Red encourages students and faculty to wear their Rosco Red shirts or “positive gear” (hats, buttons, stickers) to represent not the brand, but the message.
Both brothers collaborated with Family Service Association (FSA) campus coordinator Daniel Carrillo. Carrillo is assigned to South San High School and Dwight Middle School and introduced Rosco Red to the students and faculty.
“There has been a high absentee rate at the high school that may be caused by bullying, family issues, or other social anxiety’s causing students to lose interest in school,” Carrillo said.
FSA is a human service agency in San Antonio that helps children, seniors and families who are in need of care. It has five locations in the city and serves over 55 campuses, including South San High School.
Though, he was not raised on the South Side, Roland says he can connect with the students by “bleeding red.” Roland also believes we all share the common blood color that unites us all.
“I was really touched by the presentation, and the statistics on bullying are surprising,” said Judy Perez, at-risk facilitator and lead counselor at South San High School.
Perez works closely with Carrillo and the at-risk students at South San High School. She says bullying is a relevant topic and needs to be addressed.
Rosco Red is eager to drop the rates on the South Side, and has a follow-up assembly with the school in the next coming months. Rosco Red is also expanding their anti-bullying efforts to other parts of this city and transitioning into a non-profit organization.
A&M-San Antonio advocates for anti-bullying
Meanwhile, colleges and universities continue to address the issue of bullying. At A&M-San Antonio’s counseling center students in need of personal assistance on bullying or other issues may contact the Jag Care Network.
“We know it’s [bullying] out there and know that it can be an issue,” said Jolene J. Des Roches, student engagement and success director of counseling and wellness services. “We are very proactive, if we hear something we will try to make the campus safe as soon as possible.”