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From One Upstander to Another: Working Together for a Common Cause

Sep 27, 2017, 10:54 AM

Reposted from the Not In Our Town Blog

Shawyawn Sekhavat and U.S. Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan

Shawyawn Sekhavat played a leadership role in the Not In Our School anti-bullying campaign at Orange High School in Pepper Pike, OH. Their campaign was filmed and shown at the White House and is featured in the BULLY Educator DVD & Toolkit.

After graduating from high school in 2011, Shawyawn is now a pre-med student at Ohio University. He was one of two students who joined Not In Our School at the National PTA’s Youth Leadership Summit in Cincinnati this June. Here, Shawyawn shares his experience joining other leaders and encouraging students to be upstanders.

The Youth Leadership Summit sponsored by the National PTA was a phenomenal way for student leaders to share their stories to help inspire youth to act out against bullying. As one of the student leaders, this was a great chance for me to showcase what my school, Orange High School in Pepper Pike, OH, has done with the Not In Our School program.

At the summit, we were able to talk about how our own life experiences helped shape how we view and deal with bullying. Student leaders, along with other PTA staff, helped encourage younger students to take a stand and make a difference at their school. Through numerous workshops and activities students were able to exercise their problem solving skills and help come up with their own campaigns to be used in their respective schools.

This youth summit has helped show me and many other youth that there is strength in numbers. When you can have multiple people working toward a common cause it is remarkable what you can accomplish, which was easily seen during one of the workshops where students came up with their own anti-bullying presentations in a matter of hours.

If hate has come to your town or school it is important to involve as many people as you can. It’s not only on the students, but teachers and staff as well. Students may have a fresh perspective on the issue; however, it does take some figures of authority to really help some of these plans come to life. Addressing the problem is one of the most powerful things a community can do because more often than not the issue is the public’s lack of the knowledge of the subject.

Getting people informed about the problem and showing how prevalent it is will help people identify when something is going wrong. Repetition is also important, whether it is a Powerpoint, speech, or presentation. These demonstrations have a positive impact on people, but the effect may die down after some time so it is key to keep these issues hot.

I strongly encourage any young students or younger adults who would like to take a leadership position to try and become involved in Not In Our School as I did and in their school’s PTSA. The summit was a fantastic learning experience for not only the students, but those involved in leading it. I know the summit was just as much of a learning experience for me as it was for the  students who attended.

Check out how Shawyawn and his classmates at Orange High School mapped their campus to locate the spaces where bullying takes place. After identifying the “bully hotspots,” including the cafeteria, media lab, and locker rooms, students created a flash freeze demonstration to raise awareness about bullying, and opened the conversation about how to create a safer school.