Program takes different approach to antibullying

Linsey Covert has a new take on an antibullying program.

The Penn State grad and former school councilor said the mission behind Project TEAM is to provide a platform where students feel empowered to be a part of a schoolwide team.

As a result, Covert, program director, said the connectivity and sense of belonging has the ability to also contribute to a students’ more successful future.

“They begin to understand a responsibility to one another, which in turn reduces bullying and creates a healthier and more productive environment for all,” she said.

Project TEAM is the product of her Chambersburg-based company TEAMology, which offers curriculum, material and training that targets bullying and other antisocial behaviors among elementary and middle school students.

TEAMology was formed in March with funding from the Fund for Innovation by the Penn State Research Foundation.

Project TEAM is in 18 schools

But Project TEAM is a program already in 18 schools in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

And a vision for the long-term is to make it more digital including developing web-based software.

Covert’s idea uses a visual of a house with a group of characters.

The idea is for students to build a set of life skills through the initiative that targets specific foundations: working with others, helping others, positive change, antibullying, problem-solving and conflict resolution, resiliency and leadership.

“These interconnected foundations are taught to all students, and each of the foundations is a piece of the house,” Covert said. “Students begin to understand that all of the concepts are significant now and in the future.”

It’s designed to fit the program’s slogan, “Are you in the house?” meant as a way for students to reflect on their actions.

Project TEAM started as an idea based on Covert’s research as a graduate student at Penn State from 2004 to 2006.

At the time I was getting my masters in school counseling and started having ideas around how the power of team building can be used in schools

Linsey Covert, program director

“At the time I was getting my masters in school counseling and started having ideas around how the power of team building can be used in schools,” Covert said.

A partnership was established in 2012 with Penn State professors Richard Hazler and JoLynn Carney to conduct formal research and further development at Penn State.

In the same year, a $1 million endowment was provided to the university’s College of Education through a donor who wanted to help build a bullying prevention program that stems from Penn State, and which helped fund the initiative.

After almost three years of research and development, Covert had the chance to participate in the TechCelerator program through Ben Franklin Technology Partners — a program designed to assist entrepreneurs in launching a business.

“I hadn’t thought about starting a company to commercialize Project TEAM, but this experience was life changing in that it helped me understand how to expand Project TEAM through commercialization,” Covert said.

She was also invited to participate last month at the Invent Penn State Venture and IP Conference — a “Shark Tank”-like competition where company reps present a three-minute pitch to judges.

Project TEAM placed third, allowing Covert to put the $25,000 winnings toward initiative growth.

Britney Milazzo: 814-231-4648, @M11azzo