by Annie Liu, YES Institute Intern
Recently, I saw a video that has stayed with me long after I closed my browser. My heart sunk with a devastating thud when I came across the chilling video of a gay 14-year-old student named Jonah Mowry, whose powerful account of enduring school bullying splashed a brutal reality across my screen.
The obvious fear and pain strewn across his tearful face revealed the experience of many youth like Jonah who feel isolated from their peers as a result of bullying. Even in the tender years of elementary and middle school, the suffocating animosity toward those who fall outside our rigid molds of gender and orientation is overwhelmingly prevalent.
For many, the shock of this knowledge can fade quickly. We continue to live our lives, clicking the next YouTube video, dismissing the possibility of a world without teenage suicide as a dream. After all, what could we really do to eliminate bullying, anyway? I had no clue.
In June 2011, I walked through the doors of YES Institute for my first Communication Solutions™ course with a mindset similar to many of my peers'. School bullying is something I saw and kept quiet about — I didn't really think I had the power to change anything. But by the end of the first day, a strong sense of hope emerged. More than that, I felt like I had a newfound responsibility to speak out and take actions beyond clicking the “Like” button. I learned that powerful communication, one grounded by a purpose bigger than who is right and who is wrong, can lead to solutions for even the most unyielding of problems. YES Institute demonstrated how I actually could, with some tools and some practice, become a powerful speaker.
We live in a world where differences are scrutinized and misunderstood as frightening and bad. These ideas eventually lead to deep-rooted fears and devastating consequences. Many do not even know how to begin talking about these topics, much less generate solutions to address our conflicts in a way that is effective and honest. Today, with my newly-developed communication tools, I feel more equipped to engage in conversations about bullying and suicide in a way that inspires my peers to take action. Modeled from what I learned from Communication Solutions™, I'm creating a plan for the GSA (Gay-Straight Alliance) club at my school to deliver presentations to classes and invite more students to talk about these topics and reduce anti-gay name calling and bullying.
I encourage anyone reading this blog to take the next step beyond the safety of your internet screen and take action now. Social media is great for raising awareness and sharing information, but it won't make the difference on its own. Sign up for YES Institute’s Education Week, taking place during Martin Luther King Jr. Day Weekend, and access new communication tools and cutting-edge education on gender and orientation so you can make the difference in your community. Contact Brittney McCabe, 305-663-7195 or firstname.lastname@example.org to register.