LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) -

According to a 2015 survey from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 20 percent of high school students reported being bullied on school property.

But the city of La Crosse and other organizations are hoping one day, they can reverse that number.

Thursday, La Crosse Mayor Tim Kabat made a proclamation that marks October as Bullying Prevention Awareness Month.

But with bullying not going away any time soon, officials say it will take a lot more than words to end it.

Sixteen-year-old Haley Martella is no stranger to bullying. As someone who's traveled through foster care, as well as being a mom, she says bullying has taken its toll.

"I just felt pretty worthless. I didn't feel like I was supposed to be here,” Martella said.

On Thursday, Martella and others stood with Mayor Kabat in an effort to defeat bullying with compassion.

"I just think people need to learn that what you're doing is hurting everyone else,” Martella said.

Members from the Coulee Region Compassion Alliance believe they are changing the way people talk about bullying and compassion.

"The whole notion that you can get more done with an affirmative approach, rather than a deficit approach I think is really taking hold in La Crosse,” School District of La Crosse Associate Superintendent of Instruction Troy Harcey said. “There's a lot of different organizations -- lot of people talking about better serving our community."

But officials say it's not just children who need to be involved.

"Far too often, we compartmentalize and minimize this issue to the schoolhouse, and what that ends up doing is liberating the adults from leaning in to some of the difficult conversations. Because as adults, we need to take a mirror to our own personal conduct,” Harcey said.

"I don't know if we've moved the needle on reducing bullying yet, but what we are doing is creating awareness and getting more people, especially parents,” Gundersen Health System family and child therapist Jeff Reiland said.

But Martella says it will take more than just talk to finish the job.

"People need to think, before they act,” Martella said.

Officials would like to remind everyone about Unity Day next Wednesday, Oct 19.

It's a chance for everyone to wear orange in an effort to stand up against bullying, and stand united for kindness, acceptance, and inclusion

News 8 is a proud member of the Coulee Region Compassion Alliance