Eleven-year-old Kiara, a fifth-grader at Captain Albert Stevens School in Belfast, said she learned that one of her friends doesn't like whipped cream.

"I did not know that," said the youth. "She was afraid other kids would tease her if they found out about it."

But during the week of Monday, Feb. 25, through Friday, March 1, students at the Belfast elementary school participated in various activities aimed at appreciating the unique qualities of others and embracing those differences rather than using them as a reason for bullying.

To help further those ideas, school guidance counselor Cynthia Martell started a civil rights team involving eight students of various ages and grade levels, with Kiara being one of the students who wanted to be a part of those efforts.

Kiara's classmate, 11-year-old Savanna, said she wanted to join the team because she didn't want to see other students endure some of the same hardships she did when she was younger.

"When I was younger, I got bullied a lot," she said. "So when Mrs. Martell brought up the civil rights team, I thought I'd join so I could help other people."

Eight-year-old Savannah, a second-grader, joined the team because, she said, she wanted other students to know  "it's OK to be yourself; you don't have to be afraid."

Martell said the week-long celebration of self included a visit from Brandon Baldwin of the Maine Attorney General's Office, who addressed students at CASS Tuesday, Feb. 26. Martell said students from the civil rights team at Drinkwater School in Northport came to the presentation as well.

The week also included four days when students were encouraged to dress in ways that showcase their individuality. Last Tuesday, the students were asked to sport their favorite colors, while Wednesday, the students wore clothing promoting their favorite teams and/or sporting activities. Friday, all the students wore their favorite pajamas to school.

To help promote the week of activities, Martell said, members of the civil rights team created posters that they displayed all around the school. Martell said the youths are now working on bookmarks with images and quotations promoting tolerance and diversity that will go home with each student at the end of the school year.

Another exercise the students participated in during the week, said Martell, was a type of guessing game based on posters every student and staff member in school made, featuring self-portraits and a few facts about themselves. The identity of each person was hidden at the bottom of each one, and the students took turns guessing who they thought the person was based on the information provided on each poster.

Each of the students said they particularly liked playing the guessing game because it helped them learn a little more about all of their schoolmates.

Savanna said she wanted other students to know she loves playing four-square, listening to country music — especially Tim McGraw — and that she very much enjoys cooking with her dad. Her favorite dish to prepare with her father, she added, is brownies.

"If we were all alike it would be boring," said Kiara, adding that she likes learning from people who are different in some way.