The 2018 International Bullying Prevention Association National Conference: A Reflection

Nicolette Grace Granata

Being my first time at one of IBPA’s national conferences, I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect from the experience. What I left with on Wednesday though, aside from journal pages filled with practical information and strategies, was a true sense of empowerment and community. There is no doubt in my mind that gathering hundreds of individuals from different walks of life in the same conference space – all working together to put an end to bullying in their respective communities across the world – is a magical experience.

Beginning early Monday morning with the Preconference Sessions, the “Putting the Pieces Together For Healthy Schools”-themed conference was in full swing. It was invigorating to see how many administrators and educators we able to attend the conference from the surrounding San Diego school districts, and inspiring to hear them swap ideas and best practices freely. Later that afternoon and into the evening, conference attendees were certainly not left searching for what to do with their time; the diverse set of Poster Sessions, the informative (and so tasty!) Exhibit Hall Reception, and the touching Circles: Film Screening kept everyone engaged and looking forward to the days to come.

Tuesday morning began bright and early with Sunrise Yoga. Led by one of the outstanding conference presenters, Kim DeMoss, the yoga sessions overlooked the beautiful San Diego marina. Occurring both Tuesday and Wednesday morning, the feedback from them was outstanding: conference attendees left feeling awake, collected, and ready to open their minds to the wealth of information available to them. After all had grabbed some Continental breakfast, attendees piled into the Grande Ballroom to take their seats for Monica Lewinsky’s Opening Keynote: “The Price of Shame.” Monica’s message was highly impactful; earning a standing ovation from the conference audience that lasted over a minute long. The climate of the room was non-judgmental and welcoming; allowing IBPA board members, staff, conference attendees, and Monica the freedom to be vulnerable with one another. One of my favorite quotes of Monica’s came at the very end of her talk, when she said, “A meaningful positive comment today erases a negative comment of the past.” It allowed everyone in the room to focus on what they can do here-and-now, setting a powerful tone for the beginning of the conference breakout sessions.

Some of the most memorable breakout sessions at the conference were student-led: board member Eric Johnson’s group “Move2Stand,” Amy Jones Anichini’s group from Theatre of Peace, and three groups from Alaska (Anchorage Youth Vote, Story Works Alaska’s Youth Team, and Spirit of Youth) exemplified the power that Youth Voice can have at national conferences such as this one. Their perspectives and experiences reminded all the professionals in attendance of the importance of collaboration when it comes to bullying response and prevention.

Late Wednesday morning, conference attendees once again piled into the Grade Ballroom of the Sheraton San Diego. This time, it was for Dr. Eddie Moore Jr.’s Closing Keynote: “Times are Changing: Are Your Ready?” With his own unique delivery, Dr. Eddie Moore Jr. rallied the crowd to feel inspired about their current and future role in the world’s changing landscape in terms of diversity. Nicely tying together his message with Monica’s, he passionately emphasized that “hate’s best friend is silence.” Just as Monica motivated us to think about the repercussions our silent “clicking” behavior on social media, Dr. Eddie Moore Jr. motivated us to think about the repercussions of silent voices when dealing with bullying, racism, and hate.

Overall, I think most would agree with me in saying that the International Bullying Prevention Association’s 2018 San Diego National Conference had a lasting impact on them. While I couldn’t cover all of the special moments here, what I do want to stress is what an encouraging  and energizing space it truly was. From talking to many multi-year attendees, this positive, welcoming, supportive, and collaborative climate was not exclusive to this year’s conference: IBPA has set itself apart by the intentional way it brings people together. And so, I look back at this year’s conference already looking ahead to next year’s with joyful anticipation.

Nicolette Granata is a student in her senior year at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN. She is double-majoring in Child Development and Psychology, with a minor in Special Education. Nicolette feels incredibly lucky that a semester-long Independent Study on evidence-based bullying literature, response, and prevention lead her to find IBPA. She feels truly blessed and grateful to be working with such an impactful, kind, giving, and gifted group of individuals as IBPA’s Communications Coordinator.

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