Archive | November, 2011

Janette’s Day at YES!: I am part of the group called “youth” and change will start happening if I take action and help my fellow peers.

28 Nov

My Day at the YES! Conference

By Janette Cruz

When you hear the word Conference you usually think of men or women in business attire, and long, boring, and useless diagrams. However, on October 23,2011 I was a YES! leader at the YES! Conference and the word boring was far from it. I got there around 7ish and it ended around 5 but those hours flew by so fast. As soon as the first school arrived– music, like “Firework” by Katy Perry started playing. My friend Erin and I were in charge of playing games (ice breakers) with the different schools and it was a lot of fun interacting with people our age from all over CT, Mass, and RI.

It was up beat, filled with energy and just fun. I loved the poet Jamele Adams, he gave me inspiration and energy. I n fact, he inspired me to make my speech for Names Can Really Hurt Us (an anti-bullying program at my school) into a poem about discrimination. The workshops during the conference were very informative and let everyone participate (through sharing of thoughts, feelings, memories, etc.). I was not assigned to a workshop but I walked around and listened to a few and it seemed like everyone was enjoying themselves.

I attended a workshop called “That’s Soooo Gay!” about how homophobic language, attitudes, and feelings create an unsafe school culture and how homophobia hurts not just people who are LGBTQ, but everyone. The woman who was running this workshop got sick and had to leave, leaving my friend Matt and I in charge. We passed out some papers that she left and continued the discussion about positive and negative stereotypes of people in the queer community.

It was interesting to hear what others (not only ppl who were LGTBQ but allies also) thought about being LGBTQ in their school. They talked about how they felt and why they felt that way. For example, a male said: “I’m gay and proud of it but that doesn’t mean I’m going to want to have sex with every guy I see,” properly correcting a prejudice people have.  I loved hearing what allies thought because they are usually forgotten when you think about LGBTQ/queer community. When an ally male said, “I support my friends who are gay or lesbian, etc. but since I hang with them, people often think I’m gay too, even though I’m not.”

We also talked about how being LGBTQ is not a choice but a discovery/acceptance within yourself that you were born that way.  In addition to this we also talked about how to be an ally. I enjoyed the discussion but wished it wasn’t so much like a lecture in a way, since our presenter got sick. Matt and I weren’t so sure how well we did at talking about/ leading a workshop until one of the guys who participated in the workshop told us that he really learned a lot from the workshop and enjoyed it. It was a really cool feeling, knowing that the message really got through.

In the afternoon I saw a group of improv students perform. They showed the perspective of each person in a bullying situation–bully, victim, bystander, and ally. In the afternoon I saw a movie called “Bullied” of a guy who was bullied in school so much  that he was beaten, threatened and almost killed because of his sexual orientation. He was the first to sue his school for not taking action and helping him with this serious situation.

I also really enjoyed the part of the conference where all the youth had to come up with an idea of how to take all that they learned that day and bring it back to their school. They wrote it on a note card and had to walk around exchanging note cards with everyone until the sound of the whistle blew (kinda like musical chairs haha). Then we were told to rate/add suggestions to the idea, so everyone got to see each others idea and see if it would work.

Overall it was a wonderful time. I was interviewed during the conference on why I was helping and the answer is because I am part of the group called “youth” and change will start happening if I take action and help my fellow peers. Youth should have a say in what is right and what is wrong. I learned new things, met new ppl and had fun while doing all of this. This conference makes me want to continue to find new ways to stop discrimination, prejudice, bullying, etc. in my school.

The YES! conference was only the beginning of the actions that youth are doing/going to do to stop bullying.

We, the youth have power and it’s time to use it to help the current generation and the next.

YES!

Impromptu Dance Party!

ps: we had the best dance parties during break. haha c:

Janette is a student at Wethersfield High School.  She is a recent alum of NCCJ’s ANYTOWN program and has been YES! Leader all year long. We are continually impressed with her ability to rise to the occasion as she did at the conference with Matt Wilson when their facilitator got sick.  That was pretty rocking to see. 🙂

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Rachael’s Advice: When YOU(th) reach out, people reach back!

23 Nov

Rachael Constantine

Just Reach Out To Somoene!

By Rachael Constantine

The most beautiful day of my life happened this past Thursday when my Intro to Early Childhood Education class got to go to an elementary school in Taftville, Connecticut. Being at the school started out dull. We sat around just observing the five through eleven year-old play on the playground. Then after about twenty minutes of being there, the providers of the child care center began a game of capture the flag, and us college kids were allowed to play too!

Our professor told us to pick a buddy so I looked to a group of kids and said, “Who wants to be my buddy?” And one girl bolted forward and reached for my hand. This girl was so beautiful and was so quiet! I was trying to get her pumped by telling her we’re gonna win and she didn’t smile or make eye contact or anything. She would not talk to me at all and so then I asked, “Are you okay?” She nodded. Then I asked, “You’re just shy, huh?” And she nodded more aggressively than before so I put my hand on her back and said, “Its okay. I was shy when I was younger too.” And then she finally smiled, but something gave me the vibe that this child still wasn’t as excited as I wished for her to be.

THE GAME BEGAN!

When they said go she didn’t even flinch where as other kids started sprinting. “C’mon! We gotta play! We gotta score a point!” She said she is “never able to get the flag,” that its “always the boys who score” and that “girls can’t play this kind game.” Righ there I realized that this girl, who was just shy of ten, was already getting the message that boys rule and girls drool. So, I got the mission in my mind to make this girl score a point for our team. My whole life vanished in my mind and I was completely set on making this girl see that girls are just as capable as boys to do anything they want.

My professor came up to us and said, “Get in there!” And I told her I had a strategy. My professor left and I looked at my buddy and said, “All right, here is the deal, we’re gonna get the flag, just start walking.” When we reached the line in the middle that separates the teams she stopped. I said, “Relax. Keep walking like you own the place. Just act all chill like you’re on this team.” So we crossed the line and walked really slowly over to the flag pretending to be disinterested in the game. We got to the hoola hoop where the flag was and I could see she was getting nervous that someone would find out we’re from the other team and put us in the jail. I got on my knees and looked her in the eyes and grabbed her shoulders and said, “Ya ready? This is all you. You’re gonna score, okay?” And she smiled at me like, “Wow, of course I would pick the crazy girl,” and nodded.

Like a flash of lightning I pulled a one eighty on my knees and I grabbed the flag when the guards were distracted and handed it to my buddy and screamed, “RUN!” She started running and I jumped up and I started trailing her so no one could tag her. “Run, Forest, run!” I was yelling, and then she crossed the line back to our side. POINT SCORED.

After she crossed the line she stopped and stared at the flag in her hands in awe. She couldn’t believe she just scored a point and apparently neither could any of the boys who stood there with their jaws dropped. Finally I made a huge scene and began pointing her out, yelling that she scored. All the other kids started to run over to give her high fives, hugs, and pats on the back. They told her great job, you did it, etc. And then this incredibly cute boy who looked to be her age walked over to her and said, “Hey! That was pretty cool.” She said thanks and as he walked away she blushed.

Then me and her decided to guard our flag so we could stand around and talk. The words began pouring out of her mouth. She told me thanks for helping her and that it was so exciting. More she talked the more happy facial expressions she had. It was so heart warming because I know I made this girls day. She became the cool kid at recess and I made a new little friend.

The point of why this was the most beautiful day of my life was because this was the girl playing by herself on the playground, this was the girl who believed she wasn’t as good as boys, this was the girl who was as silent as could be who stood with a pout, and I changed her life. When we left everyone was trying to play with her, she knew she could do anything that the other boys could do, and she was now talking loudly, animated and stood proud with a grin. It was beautiful because I know I taught her that girls are just as awesome as boys and also because it proved to me how reaching out to someone can really make a huge difference in their life.

So…

Dear YOUth,
My goal for you is to look for that kid who seems lonely, who is always quiet, who you think just doesn’t smile enough, and reach out to them. YOUth reaching out can make a huge difference. You could find out that the person you always heard was “weird,” is really your future, life long, best friend, and they were just waiting for someone like you to come along and complete them. And they will complete you in return. Small acts of kindness go a long way. If you’re looking for good karma, a new friend, to save that person who is on the edge, if you’re looking to just be there for someone, reach out. YOUth have a voice. YOUth are more powerful than they want us to know. YOUth should share your awesome personality, your perspectives, your thoughts, yourself, with as many people as you possibly can. When YOUth reach out, people reach back. She reached for me, and I reached for her. YOU(th) CAN DO IT.

Love,

Rachael Constantine

—–

My name is Rachael Angelina Constantine. I grew up in Wethersfield, CT, but just recently moved to Uncasville, CT. I’m a freshman at Three Rivers Community College with a major in Early Childhood Education. I am eighteen years young. I live with my Papa Bear and my puppy. Her name is Buddha, she is the love of my life. I like to write, read, and take long car rides with people who like to sing as loud and horribly as I do. My political view is peace, my religious view is love. I wake up. Do what I need to do. Do what I want to do. Say what I’m thankful for. And then rest my head. Oh! And I can say my ABC’s backwards.

PS-Rachael is also an alum of ANYTOWN. In her role as a counselor, she kicks as much ass as possible ensuring that no one is left out. We like her. A lot.

Kimmie’s Power: The POWER that I have now is the same power that I possessed when I was younger.

21 Nov

Kimmie Tran!

We (the YOUth) Have The Power!

By Kimtuyen “Kimmie” Thi Tran

From early on, it’s been conditioned into my being that there are things that I can do and things that I am not allowed to do. Do NOT touch that. Do NOT go to the bathroom without permission. Do NOT break the rules. You are forced into this box that conditions everyone to think that they are incapable of making decisions without someone’s approval, otherwise there are consequences. We are not allowed to break the molds that the society is trying to condition us into.

Why is the one thing we emphasize when kids are growing up is the negative powers of NO, DON’T, CAN’T, and SHOULDN’T?

Young adults feel like they have no power as they are maturing and growing. When Young Adults have to make a choice to do something, they quite often have to try to overcome the barricades of NO, DON’T, SHOULDN’T in order to accomplish something.

Thus, The YES! Campaign is the response and initiative to fix this NO epidemic! Instead of telling youth and young adults that they are not allowed to do something, we are giving the youth THEIR POWER BACK! Instead of constantly saying NO you can’t do this, NO you shouldn’t do that, we are saying YES! you can do that, YES! you have the strength, YES! you are able! This is important because young adults come into contact with many situations and issues that require them to feel like they have power. YES! gives them the power to recognize that they have all the strength they need to conquer any problem that comes into their path! The YES! initiative is Youth Establishing Strength to make a difference!

YES! is that positive initiative that is needed to remind youth and young adults like me that we can make a difference because we have that strength. Being a college student of color at an all-girls college that recognizes the strength we all possess is a reminder that YES! is that admonition for me that I have the strength to do anything I set my mind to. Power is not suddenly given to me because I am older or because I am in college. The power that I have now is the same power that I possessed when I was younger!

My ability to recognize my strengths are constantly emphasized through The YES! Campaign. YES! is the positive affirmation in my life that I am able and have the potential to do what I want to!!! I am able to break through barriers that have been placed on me because of what the society thinks I am capable of. I can show everyone the strength I have by standing up and saying YES!

YES! I can do what I want to make this world a better place!

YES! I have the strength to oppose the oppressor!

YES! I can stand up for myself, my beliefs, and others beliefs that I care about!

YES! with everyone standing together, we are a force that will become unstoppable because NO ONE will have the power to tell us NO WE CANT because we KNOW YES! WE CAN!

——

Kimmie Tran is a senior at Smith College studying Pre-Med, with a major in in Religion and a minor in Chemistry.  Kimmie continues to be passionate about social justice, enjoys volunteering at hospitals, cooking, and has attended NCCJ’s ANYTOWN program multiple times as a counselor along with being involved in activities on campus.

Emma’s Words: It has ALWAYS been the time to end bullying.

16 Nov

Emma Murray!

The YES! Conference

by Emma Murray

The YES! Campaign on October 23, 2011 was a huge success. After schools arrived and registered, I was in charge to help rally students together to take a picture. The actual conference hadn’t even begun yet, but everyone appeared enthusiastic and excited for what was in store in the hours to come. I was pleased with this positive omen. During the first activity I was in with about twenty other students, we talked about what makes human beings feel included and excluded. In a nutshell, here’s what we decided for what makes us feel included: feeling part of a conversation, being paid attention to, feeling like you can be yourself, and feeling genuinely happy.

For excluded, however, the list appeared to be longer. We also all noted how much quicker answers were being spout out, and that it seemed much easier to come up with negative things rather than positive. The following was on the excluded list: fidgeting with clothes, pretending to text, checking the time over and over, not being listened to, feeling sad and not feeling like we are pivotal to the conversation. What was interesting about this discussion was that we had all just met each other, yet the environment and vibe was positive and happy, and everyone listened and respected one another. I also think it was a great moment of realization for everyone in the group; it was clear that no one is alone, that at some point or another, everyone has felt included as well as excluded.

At my afternoon workshop, “We Fit. Just Differently.”, I learned some horrifying facts about Autism. Over 85% of autistic kids are bullied (and over 95% of kids with Asperger syndrome are bullied). I also learned that autistic individuals take longer to process what is said to them; it’s not that they don’t understand, they just need a little time to process and reply. Writing is also more difficult for autistic individuals. I learned this from an activity where we had to place a piece of paper in front of a mirror and then write our name backwards, but so it appeared normal in the mirror. This was MUCH more difficult than one would think, and the point was to show us that normal writing for autistic kids is a struggle.

It is not only important, but crucial, for youth, for us, to end bullying in schools. Whenever teachers speak up about bullying and give us a “lecture,” some students tend to react with the typical brush-off “push it aside, suck it up, and move on” response. But one of my group members from my school said something that really made an impact on me.

He said that if the “cool kids” and “leaders” of groups or cliques in schools start standing up to bullying, then the rest of the pack will follow.

When teachers attempt to enforce and instill positive change, it is not nearly as effective because it’s coming from an adult whose JOB it is to say those things. Students left the YES! Campaign empowered to make a change. But what does saying YES! actually mean? It means to agree to end bullying and speak up when an inappropriate comment is said or when an individual is treated poorly and inappropriately; to become leaders in your schools and communities to make a difference; to make a positive change by positively influencing our peers.

It is time to end bullying. Wait, no, CORRECTION: it has ALWAYS been the time to end bullying. The question is, are you going to treat others the way you want to be treated? Are you going to make a change and say, “YES!”? I sure hope you do.

I’m asking these questions to you for real.  What’s your answer?

——————–

Emma Murray is also a musician. Check out her music here on YouTube. Follow her on twitter: @emmamurraysongs.

Caleb’s Story: I’ve learned that I would rather stand up than to silence myself by committing suicide.

14 Nov

Caleb!

Dear Diary – and to those of you who read this,

My name’s Caleb Rhys Wilkie, I’m sixteen years into this life, I attend Westfield High School (go Bombers!) as a junior, I’m close with my ridiculously large family, I have really good friends, and like many college-bound students at this age, I’m beyond stressed when it comes even to starting to look colleges. Oh! Also: I’m

Gay.

Catch-up:

I came out the summer after seventh grade (at age thirteen) slowly to friends. My goal by the end of eighth grade was to be out to 100 people, including family, and then have a big party. The party didn’t happen. However, I met and reached my goal of 100, doubled it, and then just figured what the hell and decided to tell everyone. I had guts. At thirteen I was openly gay. By fourteen, I had my first relationship ever, and it was going strong. It ended after five months but that’s a different story.  In the end, middle school wasn’t too shabby.

As I am still in High School, I can’t finalize my report on it; can’t judge it until it’s all over and it’s in the past. Although, one finding that won’t look so good on its record is that freshman year was full blown hell; with sophomore year being barely an improvement.

I fit the statistic: I am gay and I was hearing, “homo,” “faggot,” and “sissy” about 26 times a day or as statistics accurately state – once every fourteen minutes. I was being ignored. Sure, I had my friends, but the occasional talk with someone random in class would’ve been cool too. I had no one to relate to, there weren’t any other gay guys out in my school even though my school has 1600 kids.  I dreaded going to a few of my classes. The thought of being required to spend forty-six minutes in a class and be humiliated by kids while the teacher practiced the “ignorance is bliss” ideology Revolted me. Anyways, feeling alone and wanting to attract more gay people into my life, I figured I ought to change myself. I figured I ought to be more gay. I Googled “gay” to help. At that moment I became self-conscious. Google filled my screen with a bunch of pictures of beautiful men, all of them fit and in shape or skinny. Once again I felt alone – I didn’t fit into what the society’s idea of what a “real” gay guy is now – and of course I didn’t fit in with the straight people. I was friends with straight people, but I always felt I was not one of them. So I decided to be gayer in a different way.

I wore heels.

Yeah, that was a whole bunch of tiring fun. Being questioned nearly 24/7, laughed at, treated differently than I was the day before, being pushed, being tested to see if I could walk in them (I could), asked by teachers to give them a reason, talked about all over school, feeling intimidated to go to the bathroom, and then being yelled at by my mom when I got home for wearing the heels that I bought. The day I wore heels is the day that everything erupted. It’s the day I had an urge to commit suicide. I was done with being judged and being made fun of, being questioned, being ignored. I was done. Fortunately, I did not go through with it after going to a crisis center. The day I gave up and asked to die was also the day I asked to live, said yes to myself, and decided to make a big, fucking change.

Sophomore year was just a tiny step up from freshman year, like one of those oddly placed half-steps we’ve all stumbled upon. Slurs still happened, but not as bad. I became the president of the Gay Straight Alliance, making it more active than it ever was before. I stuck with my decision to make that big fucking change.

How?

I got educated. The NCCJ (the National Conference for Community and Justice) was my place of choice. I had ties with them because I attended their ANYTOWN summer program, I got involved, and I put what I learned and what I believed to practice.

I introduced the NCCJ’s BRIDGES program to the school and made sure it happened.  (75 of my peers have now gone through the program!) I practiced what I preached. I pointed out hateful comments. I spoke up for myself and others.

I did what made me happy. I gave up trying to be anything else than what I was.

Present Day

So diary, I’ve learned some stuff through my experiences. I’ve learned that it’s perfectly acceptable – and normal – to not be the stereotypical definition of gay. I’ve learned that it’s perfectly acceptable to wear whatever I want to wear. I’ve learned that I’m not truly alone, that just because I don’t see certain people every day or as often as I would like doesn’t mean they aren’t right beside me. I’ve learned that I would rather stand up than to silence myself by committing suicide. I would rather protect myself and others in the future from being targeted than to give up. I learned that people who care, sometimes tell you not do to something because they want to keep you safe.  So I have learned to balance being myself and keeping myself safe – and to listen to their concerns. I’ve learned that people are not going to be accepting and welcoming overnight, it’s a gradual process. I’ve learned to relax and take a step back instead of being constantly overwhelmed. I’ve learned to support my peers who are fighting for their own equality albeit concerning: sex, race, class, religion, etc… because in the end I don’t want anyone to hurt and it’s all one big fight against hate. I’ve learned to be articulate and use my words and voice as needed. I’ve learned I have power, and people will – and do! – listen. I learned that my struggles have made me who I am today; a proud, happy, gay sixteen year old who I would not change a thing about.

I still struggle often with self-esteem issues – I find it hard to love myself after being disrespected in the ways that I have been. I still feel the scars of the words, of being avoided and ignored. I still sometimes feel out-of-place and alone. I still feel weak. However, I remember there’s nothing wrong with just being Caleb Rhys Wilkie, and that I can genuinely say I stuck to my truly life-changing choice to make a big fucking change.

Diary and others, thank you for listening to my story of how I found myself, and to how I said YES!

P.S.  The statistic was found at: http://www.nmha.org/index.cfm?objectid=CA866DCF-1372-4D20-C8EB26EEB30B9982

Message to the Bully – Spoken Word by Jamele Adams, performed at YES! Conference.

3 Nov

This is written and was performed by Jamele Adams at the YES! Conference 2011.  One of four pieces he performed that day, his words shook the minds and hearts of all in attendance.  We will be posting the other three of his rhymes individually within the next week.  Gotta give each their own blog so the power in his words is given the respect they deserve.  Check back soon!

Jamele Spittin' Rhymes

Message to the Bully

With your methods
You will not win
Vesuvian “Savant-Intelligentsians”
Comprehend
No matter how mean
You don’t expect this dream
To come back like love
To combat love; lost
In empty hugs and Shoulder shrugs
Cyber slugs and begrudged thugs
Love
Love
Love
Like hands out, hearts open
Peace pipes can’t reach the same level of smoking
The way our fire breathe have lungs open
Inhale candle 
Exhale Roman
Inhale Prometheus
Exhale Jesus
Inhale bully
Exhale Willie,
Or Jimmy, Lisa, Rosa, Mike, Bartholomew
Anyone that resembles unique you

 

Cool is no comparison to the majesty of the individual

 

Momma said follow no fool
There4
We will not give into slurs
We will not join you in saying that to her
We won’t use our words to beat him
Nor retract from your physical attacks
We won’t clown them in gym
We won’t back page their Facebook
Or sour their glitter on twitter by being bitter

 

Bully-use of superior strength or influence to intimidate
Bully-the act of repeated aggressive behavior to intentionally hurt
Bully-a person who is habitually cruel or overbearing, especially to smaller or weaker people

 

WE ARE NOT SMALL OR WEAKER PEOPLE
WE ARE MOUNTAINS OF VARIOUS SIZES

 

Check our DNA
We Do Not Allow
Love to not exist-be it ever-present
Like timeless birthday gifts

 

Love-a strong predilection or enthusiasm
Love-actions towards others based on compassion
Love-ineffable feeling of solicitude toward a person, such as that arising from kinship
We are won

 

October shouldn’t be anti-bullying month
It should be the month of self-esteem
And then have a calendar of 12 Octobers (know what I mean)

 

Larry King (murdered by Brandon MacAnary for asking on a date)
Eric Mohat (shot himself after someone said shoot yourself, you won’t be missed)
Jeremiah Lasater (shot himself in the head and had food thrown at him)
Megan Meier (hung herself in her closet after a comp message saying the world would be better without her)
Jaheem Herrera ( hung himself in his closet after being called gay, ugly and the Virgin after getting a report card full of A’s and B’s)
Justin Aaberg (gay bullying)
Phoebe Prince (cyber-bullying)
Lance
Celina
Ty
Ernest
Kimberly
Jon
Asher
Seth
Caleb
Jamarcus
Brandon
Samantha
Ashley
Alex
Billy
Harrison
Justin
Edward
Cassidy
Alexis
Christian
Cody
Felix
Jesse
Scott
Tyler
Raymond
Cory
Brittany
Jeremy
Jordan
Zach
Brendan
34 lost in 2010 due to Bullycide and cyberbullying

 

Forget money
Social security now means protection of your social identity
We are the saviors against these learned behaviors
Post Traumatic Bullying Disorder
Learning to live, with loveless-risks
And to those of us suffering with this

 

We care
We need you
We see you
You are not invisible
You are not forgotten
You are not alone
You can cry
Be angry
Be unsatisfied
Ask why
AND WE WILL REPLY
WITH THUNDEROUS SOUND
LOVE UNIFIED!

 Bullying is intimidation, harm and degradation of a human being, their character or the esteem of their spirit by another.  Breaking of one’s spirit by another’s pariah of insult and pain. The cure; love.

 Jamy publishing (c) October 2011.  harlym125@aol.com. 917-921-1456

We be buzzing like bees on a mission.

1 Nov

YES! Kick-Off Conference was awesome.  We’ve been buzzing in the news for the past week.  If you haven’t had the opportunity yet to check out what YES! youth have accomplished.  Check out the BUZZ section of our website to read, watch, and comment on articles written about YES!

What’s most powerful is that almost all of the articles feature the voices, words, and thoughts of our YES! leaders.  We forced the reporters to talk to the youth when they repeatedly asked to speak with a “diversity expert.”  We said, the youth are our experts, so talk to them.  And, they did!

Make sure to leave some comments about what you think.

YES! Highlighted on BOOST (Best Out Of School Time) Collaborative’s Newsletter!

1 Nov

YES! Highlighted in BOOST Newsletter November, 2011

 

YES! kick-off was highlighted in BOOST (Best Out Of School Time) Collaborative’s newsletter as an outstanding out-of-school program.  BOOST brings together hundreds of youth-serving organizations through their numerous programs that support these organizations to provide educational social services opportunities for young people.

Read what they wrote about YES! HERE.

(Is that Monson High School we see in the picture?!)