By: Sam Culver
It was such an amazing honor to have been invited to attend IBPA’s National Conference in San Diego! Initially, I didn’t know very much about the conference itself. I knew that it would be in the Golden State, but besides that, I was clueless! In all honesty, I was worried that the term “Youth-Voice” was going to be downplayed like it usually is. I was betting that we would be invited all of that way just to be able to sit in the crowd and listen to what the adults had to say. To my delight, I could not have been farther from the truth!
From the first day in, to the last day out, the youth were treated with a sort of reverence that I’ve yet to see from any other organization. It didn’t matter if you were in the middle of a presentation, speaking to the executive board, or simply walking down the hall, the adults would stop and listen to what you had to say. They genuinely wanted to get to know you instead of treating you as another number on a spreadsheet. The overall vibe that I consistently got throughout the duration of the conference was that we all had a job to do, a goal to achieve, a hurdle to jump over, and we were going to face it together as one in order to succeed.
Attending the conference was phenomenal in many of its own ways, however, presenting at the conference was a completely different experience. For the entirety of an hour I was given the chance to lead a team of students in presenting a breakout session to a group of youth and adults alike. We spoke on the sheer power of labels, the positions that the fellow students, peers, or even co-workers could place us in, and how we could use our status in life to discourage bullying and harassment. A few students even provided their own personal and very moving testimonies.
It took a very strong and courageous group of kids to get in front of these total strangers and open up in the way that they did. The students from Beech High School and Lauderdale County did an amazing job and I could not have asked for a better group. As we were progressing through our activities and testimonies, I began to see that bullying is a universal theme that is a part of our everyday lives regardless of the age, status, or environment that we are in as individuals. This became evident to me after seeing the reactions from the audience as we presented. Both adults and students reacted in the very same way to certain aspects of our presentation. This was perhaps my biggest takeaway from the conference. Being able to see just how deep bullying and harassment has reached is a very scary discovery,
but it is a discovery that is immediately comforted by the realization that we’re all in this together. There are a countless number of people that face harassment every day, but there are twice as many people out there in the world that are working tirelessly day and night to help put an end to bullying.
Both attending and presenting at IBPA’s Conference in San Diego was a delightful and eye-opening experience that students and adults alike would benefit from being a part of. It was a very strong but comforting reminder that we, as students, are not alone in this battle and every day we get closer and closer to a brighter world for all.
Sam is a student leader in the STARS Nashville “Move 2 Stand” Bullying Prevention Program. Move 2 Stand gives youth motivation and workable strategies to create change in their schools in regard to bullying.