July 8, 2011

Find the Courage

Since I’ve been home I’ve been working at my Alma Mater’s Alcohol and Drug Education Program. One of the first projects I got to work on while I was home was helping to coordinate the Peer Institute, a 3-day conference where colleges all over the tri-state area gathered together to share the healthy messaging programs they have on their campuses. This year, my coworkers and I themed the Peer Institute Harry Potter, slipping in Harry Potter spells, events, and references wherever we could.  The conference was a lot of work, but it was also a TON of fun.  I think I’m one of those lucky people that can really throw themselves into any cause and feel incredibly passionate about it. During the Peer Institute I was surrounded by over 175 people who all cared about delivering healthy messages to their peers, and who took the time to become trained in the facts so they could bring the best messages back to their campuses. That in and of itself would have been fun, but honestly, getting to put on a cloak and hold a magic wand made my month.

Another project I'm continually working on this summer is updating TCNJ's Peer Education webpage. I know, this sounds like loads of fun, but I am really enjoying it. Lately I’ve been looking up different healthy message campaigns to learn about, join, and share with peer educators, students, and anyone else who will listen to me. I have to say that one of my favorite campaigns so far is The Trevor Project, otherwise known as “It Gets Better,” where people from all over the world are uploading videos to talk about vexing times and how they made it through. I realized a lot of the “It Gets Better” contributors mention that what made them odd-balls as kids is making them interesting and unique adults. I think this campaign is amazing, and encouraging kids to 'stick with it,' and 'keep riding it out' because "IT GETS BETTER" is a really important message.

Recently, I’ve been thinking more and more about the “Find the Courage Campaign,” which dares bystanders to use the courage they exhibit in other areas of their lives to help them speak up against bullying.

When I was younger I remember having a couple pretty rough years where I was unsure of who I was and who I wanted to be. I remember feeling a little out of place in school as a competitive athlete who felt most comfortable in the band room. I think shows like Glee and videogames like Rockband have really helped to take away some of those old stereotypes associated with the band, but I got my fair share of jokes tossed at me thanks to good old American Pie. No matter what came my way though, I was always able to brush it off after going home and watching an episode of 7th Heaven, where I realized in comparison to the homeless, abused, and beaten children on the show, I didn't have it so bad. I was lucky to have survived high school; I had amazing resources around every corner I turned. I can’t help but feel for the kids and teenagers who have taken their lives because they didn’t have the same resources I did.
My point is: high school is hard enough for EVERYONE without adding bullying to the equation.  

So what can we do?
I know I probably exhaust my friends when I interrupt them and demand they choose a different word to add emphasis to their stories (check out Spread the Word to End the Word), or when I start a debate about whatever headline story busts my bubble, but really I think these conversations are super important to have. Knowledge is power.
Encourage your friends to use their power, leadership, and social roles to promote kindness, inclusion, and support for all people, no matter their differences.
If you see someone being bullied, or hear someone say something that is offensive, take a stance. Let them know it’s not okay.
Speak up. Find the Courage.

1 comment:

  1. I'm so proud of you, Hillary. The world needs people like you who stand up for the underdog and create change.