When Josh Kaplan entered middle school, he found himself the victim of bullying. Kids that he thought were his friends suddenly bombarded him with nasty emails and text messages. Josh cried every day. Like any good big brother, Josh's brother Matthew wanted to help. But rather than act like a bully himself and threaten to 'beat up' the kids behind the bullying, Matthew created an anti-bullying campaign that could be used within the school to help all kids who are victims of bullying. His program - Be O.N.E.- has now been adopted as a mandatory curriculum at Josh's school and to date more than 900 middle schoolers and 150 teachers have participated in it.
With Be O.N.E. - which stands for 'Be Open to New Experience,' Matthew wanted to change the culture of middle school and utilize peer pressure as a tool for good. The Be O.N.E. program uses games, activities, and guided discussions to foster a positive learning environment free of physical, verbal, and cyberbullying. In other words, he wanted to find ways that kids could connect with their similarities rather than shun one another for their differences.
Here's a look at Matthew leading a Be O.N.E. seminar at a local middle school:
Matthew recently won a grant from the Berkeley, CA-based nonprofit The Pollination Project to help him bring the program to other schools and secure nonprofit status. The Pollination Project also dubbed Matthew their first "Thanksgiving Hero," for his work with bullied kids.
"Middle school is a rocky, uphill section of life's climb," says Matthew. "At a time when kids are developing their sense of themselves internally and in relation to others, they gain access to the enormous power of social media. This is the crucial time to intervene, create empathy, and understanding. Be O.N.E. demonstrates that everyone experiences similar challenges even if it doesn't appear so. This enlightenment works like magic."
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