Generations Against Bullying
Generations Against Bullying (GAB) provides a proven, comprehensive anti-bullying solution for schools. Our 12-month Upstander Peer Ambassador Program for High, Middle, and Elementary schools will enhance any anti-bully program you have in place.
GAB has chosen to address the problem of bullying in schools by way of a program that energizes students to step in and act when they witness a classmate being victimized. In the GAB program, this is known as becoming an Upstander. Encouraging and training students to take this sort of victim-supportive action is a procedure well-supported in the scientific literature, and its origins date back to the 1960’s.
Following the rather public murder of Kitty Genovese in 1964, social psychologists Bibb Latané and John Darley (1968) undertook a study to find out why none of her neighbors stepped in to help. Out of this study came the “bystander effect,” which holds that in an emergency, the presence of other people discourages any one individual from acting. The reasons for this have been debated, but the bystander effect has been replicated many times and is one of the most robust findings in social psychology.
Flash forward to today and the problem of bullying in schools. Is there a “bystander” problem? An important study found that peers were present in upwards of 85% of bullying incidents, yet those peers intervened only 10% of the time (Jeffrey, 2004). In some cases, peers have been found to actually play a role in the attack by either doing nothing at all or by reinforcing the bully (Espelage et al, 2007).
Why don’t peers step in and help?
Here are the two most replicated findings from the research:
• Students who observe bullying don’t know what to do (e.g., Coloroso, 2005; Rock & Baird, 2012)
• Students who observe bullying are frightened that they might get bullied themselves (e.g., Musher-Eizenman et al., 2004; Stevens et al, 2000; Unnever & Cornell, 2003)
The literature is clear on this point: These two impediments to positive peer involvement – ignorance and fear – will not disappear on their own. School personnel need to actively teach and support peer intervention in bullying. In fact, Espelage and colleagues demonstrated that an individual’s willingness to intervene in bullying situations was inversely related to the amount of peer-group bullying perpetration (Espelage, Green, & Polanin, 2011).
Will teaching students how to be an Upstander help?
It will, indeed! Observational research has found that when bystanders intervene on behalf of the victim, they successfully reduce victimization 50 to 85% of the time (Craig, Pepler, & Atlas, 2000; O’Connell et al., 1999).
To put an exclamation point on that, a published meta-analysis of bystander intervention efforts (a powerful study technique that combined 12 studies into1) concluded the following:
(T)his meta-analysis indicated that programs increased bystander intervention both on a practical and statistically significant level. These results suggest that researchers and school administrators should consider implementing programs that focus on bystander intervention behavior supplementary to bullying prevention programs (Polanin et al., 2012, p. 47).
The Bottom Line
Virtually all schools have some manner of bullying prevention program: It’s the law in Wisconsin. What the research says clearly is that teaching students how to step in and interrupt the bullying sequence when it is happening will significantly increase the effectiveness of any bullying prevention program.
The GAB Upstander program provides just that manner of student training.
Words have stopping power.
If kids see someone being bullied, all they have to do is say something. Just getting involved in a nonthreatening way stops bullying in less than 10 seconds 85% of the time. That’s the difference between a bystander and an upstander.
In 2016 alone, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 5,400 bullycides, which is when a child commits suicide because they can’t stand the bullying. In fact, bullycide is one of the leading causes of death in children under 14 years old.
Have You Ever BEEN BULLIED?
If you were like many students and were bullied, you probably remember exactly how it feels. You probably remember your bully to this day.
What if someone would have stood up for you?
An upstander can literally mean the difference between life and death.
Today, bullying is more prevalent than ever. Over 50 percent of adolescents and teens have been bullied online, according to the i-SAFE Foundation. And the results are devastating.
To bring awareness about the prevalence and devastating effects of bullying in our communities, and inspire children and adults to be upstanders. Our goal is to promote and create upstander schools throughout the Nation.
To educate our children and communities concerning the importance of the love, acceptance and cooperation needed to reduce the bullying epidemic. Using our unique, hands-on, proactive approach, in combination with our creative core programs and strategic partnerships, we will provide communities with the tools and resources necessary to promote a culture of upstanders to reduce the bullying epidemic.
If you’re passionate about our mission and want to help please contact us
Mrs. Charmaine Schaefer
“Generations Against Bullying simply opened up my daughters inner confidence allowing great strides
and growth to occur…
The opportunity for my child to work hand in hand with peers and adults who placed integrity and confidence at the forefront of all they did was simply God’s intervention! My daughter flourished as a young person maneuvering through the tumultuous teen years. GAB offered her opportunities to apply tenderness, empathy, listening and speaking skills, creativity and leadership. All of the lessons learned while she worked as a Peer Ambassador enabled her to go on to a challenging and successful journey at the University of Wisconsin Madison. She is a talented young person who now volunteers and gets involved with people and groups that are dedicated to the well- being of others. She has inner peace.
Thank you GAB for the journey she experienced and will continue to utilize throughout her entire life. The focus on a growth mindset with young people enables them to find their inner strength and then be able to share this virtue with others.”
“I don’t think there will ever be enough words to say or even express my feelings about GAB. But, when I started my own business I wanted to bring homes back to life…
by taking them all the way down to the core (frames) and making the home with all the great potential I saw in my eyes. When my fiancé started GAB, I saw her glow and feel like a revived person whose light was so bright and positive that I wanted to understand more about her passion. I was introduced to GAB and immediately fell in love. All I could think about is how they are constantly building people up and they also show people how beautiful they are inside and out. I then decided to partner up with GAB as being a Sponsor. I decided that I would use my hands and building techniques in some way beneficial for them. So I decided to build a lot of the children’s games for Events that GAB has and also be right alongside them every step of the way. Trying to help them like they helped my fiancé and I. I couldn’t have asked for a better opportunity. And this is just the beginning…”
Upstander Peer Ambassador
Generations Against Bullying
“I want to show people, like children in schools, that being different is okay and that you should not bully someone who is different because there can be serious effects…
to it like suicide. I want to make a difference in the world and work to stop bullying.”
Kenosha School System
“I just wanted to thank you for putting on the Kenosha Movie Night. I attended it with my daughter and on the way home she broke down crying and we had a healthy…
conversation about bullying. I knew she was being bullied however I was blinded and had no idea of the depth. Thank you for opening my eyes as a parent and giving her a platform to speak up about her experiences instead of holding them in and making a bad decision.”
Upstander Peer Ambassador
Generations Against Bullying
In life I want to be a leader. As a leader I have to help and protect others that look up to me. That’s what I’m trying to do in GAB. I’m trying to save people from getting hurt or…
With Leadership comes responsibility and that’s a responsibility I have been ready to take on for a longtime. Now that I have GAB it gives me this opportunity that I was searching for. GAB has changed my life for the better and I truly hope it continues to change people’s lives for as long as it’s an organization.”
When I started volunteering at Generations Against Bullying as the Graphic Designer; I had absolutely no idea that it would give me such great joy and happiness…
I was searching for a purpose in my life. All my life, I have always helped others in any way that I could, but this organization makes me feel complete and proud. The feeling I receive on a daily basis knowing that I am making a difference on not just my life but others as well, leaves me feeling great.
Being bullied my whole life and thinking back now, I wish GAB would have been around back in 2005 in my high school years.
Bullying kills about 13 million kids a year and I can only imagine that this number would have been way less if there were more organizations like GAB. Life is so precious and a gift. That is why I believe we call it the present. We are never guaranteed tomorrow and I continue to be an Upstander to many children and young adult.
Thank you, GAB, for allowing me to show my potential in my design skills but also allowing me to continue to be a part of your family.”
Upstander Peer Ambassador
Generations Against Bullying
I graduated on Sunday, June 11th, 2017 from Greendale High School. During my ceremony I was honored to be able to wear a student council stole and 3 honor cords that placed…
emphasis and awareness on the things I was involved in at Greendale High School. I wore a Teal cord that represented my involvement with Generations against Bullying (GAB). I wore that cord with pride because it represented to my classmates, friends and families that I was an “Upstander” and proud to be one. Although the information regarding what each colored cord stood for was written in our graduation program, I was still asked what each cord stood for. I would always explain my teal one first, “it means that I am an ‘Upstander,’ a peer ambassador who works with kids, teaching staff, and the community on solutions to putting an end to bullying.” I was honored to have had my hard work with GAB be recognized through the wearing of the teal cord so everyone will see. Now I will always be reminded of my goal to help end bullying everything time I think of my graduation day.”
“Our Neighborhood Associations were thrilled at the chance to have GAB at our March meeting. Michael Turner’s presentation was enthralling! His genuineness in telling…
the story of his bad life choices to how he has turned his life around and all his accomplishments were eye opening. Everyone in the room could connect somehow to his story – whether they have been bullied, know someone that has been bullied or have taken the wrong path in life. We want to continue working with GAB in an effort to spread their mission.”
Pastor David Zandt
St. Mark’s in Jefferson
“Linda, Jim, and Michael – we cannot thank you enough for taking the time to be with us for our Wednesday Night Youth JAM….
Your presentation on being an Upstander was tremendous. The video clip on Sadie was an attention-grabber as you began your presentation with us, and it was very effective as you brought home the reality that everyone of us can be – in fact we are – the difference-makers in our plight against bullying.
Michael, you grabbed everyone’s attention with your testimony and powerful words of reminder that we indeed are royalty in how we can see ourselves and one another.
Linda and Jim, I appreciated how you included everyone in the conversation, and the activities you used to illustrate and bring home the message with our youth were very effective! I would like to have you back again for a movie night! Bless you as you continue to work at educating and engaging our communities on this vital issue! I pray that all may see the urgency for us to be proactive and to seek to engage others in this plight, not later but NOW!”
Upstander Peer Ambassador
Generations Against Bullying
I really wanted to let you know that I am going to be a teacher this fall at St. Thomas Aquinas Academy (STAA) in Milwaukee. I showed your video in one of my Master’s classes, and…
it reminded me that I hadn’t contacted you in a long time. I showed the GAB promotional video in my classroom management course as part of a project that I did about bullying in elementary and middle school classrooms, and I forgot how young I was then. One of my classmates was surprised at how young I looked in the video despite the fact that it is only about five years old.
On that note, I’m doing very well, and I am very much looking forward to becoming a teacher. I am joining the STAA staff as a 5th and 6th grade Social Studies, ELA, and Hebrew Scripture teacher. I am teaching through the MAGIS Catholic Teacher Corps at Creighton University. However, as I will no longer be in Omaha, I am hoping to be able to be in touch a lot more. I am so glad to see that GAB is still going strong, and I wanted to let you know how thankful I am to have been a part of your mission and to be able to show my students the powerful video you have on YouTube. I am so blessed to be able to share the voices of people just like my students with my students, and, lastly, I wanted to let you and GAB know that you have opened an invaluable door for me to my students. Bullying is never something that a child should have to deal with, but sadly many of them do. However, with the tool you have provided you have given me the opportunity to let my students see that even their teacher has been bullied and made it through.
So, thank you so much for everything, and I hope we can stay in touch.
Wisconsin Family Ties
“Thank you for your time and expertise! We so appreciate that you took time out of your busy lives and schedules to speak at The 29th Annual Children Come First Conference. We are hearing many positive comments about the workshops!”
“I just wanted to let you know about the wonderful thing that Anina did today in my AP Language class. Students chose seats today to start the semester and there was…
a girl who was sitting alone. Before I could ask for students to move so that everyone had partners, Anina and another student moved to her table. It was so kind and warmed my heart to see them do this on their own. Thank you for raising such a kind and considerate young lady.”
The beautiful thing about learning is that no can take it from you.
Generations Against Bullying, has taught me to never…
give up; to believe in myself and know that people care. I have learned to stand up for what I believe in, it’s important to see the big picture and know that the strokes of my paint brush is filled with colors of a beautiful rainbow. Know that your breath in life is filled with the air of the awesome you. You are worth the fight. Director Linda Lee is the glue that frames the picture of courage, love and support. Linda’s love and dedication to make a difference in the world, has given me the strength to hang on during the tough times and know that you are an overcomer.
“As a Mom, I’m reaching out to thank everyone at Generations Against Bullying NOW for putting together your Help Resources page! My daughter Hannah is a Girl Scout and she’s currently working on her Junior Cybersecurity Badge….
Unfortunately, with all the uncertainty still happening with COVID, Hannah’s troop has decided to continue postponing all meetings for at least the next month, just to be safe. We’re hoping to resume our regular schedule sometime in September…fingers crossed!
That being said, we still meet virtually via Zoom and her Troop leader encouraged the parents to work with our girls at home to ensure we don’t fall too far behind!
In addition to teaching the girls how to be safe and keep information private when they’re online, the Junior Cybersecurity Badge requires the girls to learn investigative skills that will help them spot problems and vulnerabilities in the cyber world. Your page led us to some great websites to check out – thank you for putting it all together!”
Not many people can locate the point in their life that turned them around and pushed them to be who they are today. I can. I know that without…
Generations Against Bullying (GAB) I wouldn’t even know how to find who I am today let alone become this person.
I joined GAB when it had first become an organization. I was at the end of my eighth grade year and fearful for what high school would bring me. I remember one of the times we met as a group, we discussed how there can be bullying within the home. Throughout the discussion, I couldn’t stop thinking about my alcoholic father. I had flashbacks to when I was younger: I would attend school and sit in class, fearful of what I would experience in the upcoming weekend. I knew I’d be on edge no matter what I chose to do. I was never allowed to be free of what my father thought was right whilst suffering his abuse.
Abuse that had me constantly worrying. Would I only eat 1-2 meals all weekend? Would I have to lock myself in the bathroom with my sister while running away from my father’s raised hand? Would I have to endure a few more words thrown my or my sister’s way about how we were failures, lazy, not smart enough, and terrible? Would I have to listen to him bash my mother, who I love dearly?
These worries turned to fear. Fear that caused me to be very withdrawn. I lacked the self-esteem and confidence to stand up to him and express my deep-rooted feelings that I no longer wanted to tolerate the abuse and that I needed to stop seeing him. At that moment I finally came to the realization that my father was a bully… my bully.
I realized that the only way to get myself out of the situation with him would be to upstand for myself. So that fall, I called my dad. Through tears, I identified all the things that he did to destroy my self-esteem, I explained that I couldn’t see him anymore, that he was the most negative part of my life and was preventing me from discovering myself. His reply was said with disgust, “I don’t know where this is coming from but if you’re going to be this rude I don’t ever want to see you again” and then he hung up. Not two minutes later he called back to simply ask when the next time we could meet was, forgetting about the extremely emotional confession I had just told him. At that point I grasped the reality that I will never know whether or not he truly listened to the words I told him, for I never did hear an apology.
Despite his lack of recognition that he was at fault, I was free from the bully in my life. I never would’ve been able to stand up and liberate myself from this bully if it hadn’t been for GAB holding my hand throughout that break. With this moment of clarity I was able to set out on a mission, one that included teaching others to become upstanders for themselves and for others. I realized that with this new frame of mind I wouldn’t only be able to help myself become a stronger person, but I’d have the opportunity to help many others do the same. GAB was the passage I was given to complete this mission.
The last four years have been a journey for both myself and GAB. It was difficult for people to accept that we could do something about bullying, a topic that was shoved under the rug because it was “just a thing everyone went through.” Throughout the bumpy journey I never lost sight of my quest to help others. I was left with a motivation to figure out the solution to treating this social knot. I had an epiphany, and determined that the solution was to grow confidence, courage, and a sense of efficacy within people, which would therefore build their resistance to bullies. I would work closely to Mrs. Linda Lee, GAB’s Executive Director, in order to ensure that by the time I left high school we’d have a solid club up and running within my high school, so that if ever necessary GAB would be there to help another as it had helped me.
My junior year we’d realized the importance that a message that came from the peers for the peers would be. Each and every month I, along with some of my peers that had been in GAB since the near beginning, would plan our GAB monthly meeting and activities for the Peer Ambassadors to do. We planned and presented these meetings around different types of bullying and upstanding, in hopes that our Peer Ambassadors, general members of GAB, would internalize our lessons. In hopes that they’d be able to use our suggested upstanding tips in their lives to upstand towards one of the various types of bullying that we’d covered. It is impossible to measure the impact that these lessons have had or will have in their lives because sometimes upstanding is so quick and subtle. This doesn’t erase it’s importance. It only emphasizes it. It emphasizes just how amazing it is that bullying can be stopped so quickly with the use of only a few words and some courage.
My passion with GAB’s mission continued to grow deeper as the years went by. I needed to help implement the message of upstanding within other schools. So when Mrs. Lee had offered for me to write up curriculum, I jumped on the opportunity. I created a thorough book that would represent the GAB program. In it I separated and walked through various types of bullying and how to approach these topics with a Peer Ambassador group. For each lesson I’d include suggestions for activities, videos, statistics, and what would be important to emphasize. There was also a section on how to elect a Peer Ambassador Board within their club, so that they too could have the peers creating and teaching the lessons to their members. Finally, I also developed a section that would help a Peer Ambassador group travel to the younger schools within their district, such as the middle and elementary, in order to get the younger students informed about how to approach bullying in a non-threatening and effective manner through upstanding. My thorough GAB curriculum could be presented to other schools, so that they too could gain a GAB program and help start spreading the lesson of upstanding to students across Wisconsin and potentially America.
We knew that having a large aspiration such as spreading our message to the nation would be difficult to achieve, but it never stopped us. We have continued to persevere through any obstruction that is in front of us. Yes, obstructions have delayed us from reaching the ultimate goal of making a change within the nation, but I know for a fact that it hasn’t nor will it ever prevent GAB from being heard.
I started in GAB as a shy girl who could never imagine helping lead something so powerful. Now, I’m the one who starts off conversations with people she’s never met. I’m the one who spends her free time volunteering, not twiddling her thumbs with nothing to do. I’m the one who isn’t afraid to go for a position that she thinks she’ll never get, rather than reminisce about what could’ve been. I’m the one who has grown to be a confident and selfless individual who couldn’t be more proud of herself. I’m the girl who has discovered herself and the life she wants to lead, and I wouldn’t be this person if it weren’t for this organization. Thank you GAB, for making me, me.
When Luke was in preschool he was bullied because he was different. Luke was diagnosed with Autism at the age of 6. From little on Luke has always had an extreme love for animals…
and at the age of 6 started volunteering for the Lakeshore Humane Society. He found a need and the animals accepted him for who he was. Luke socialized, walked, helped with fundraisers and fostered and adopted mostly special needs animals. Luke would stay up thru the night feeding animals without moms, help animals thru labor, and hold animals to keep them warm until they took their last breath to let them know someone loved them until the end. Luke was featured on a video and the front page of the paper when he was ten to talk about the shelter, animal adoption and his special connections to animals.
When Luke was in 5th grade a teacher told Luke in front of the whole class that he would never amount to anything in life to not even try and that he didn’t need breaks he wanted them to get out of class even though breaks were part of his IEP. Ultimately even after trying to work with the principal we felt it was best, even though Luke only had 6 months of that school left and his friends were there to transfer him to a new school where hopefully he would be accepted for who he was. Luke was accepted by the school and started gaining confidence. Kids accepted Luke for the person he was even though he was different. He became motivated to help others so that they didn’t have to feel the way he did.
Luke was 10 and found the Miracle league of the Lakeshore. Luke was inspired by others on the committee and started going out into the community to raise awareness. Within three years the committee as a whole raised over 450,000. The miracle league completed its fourth season and two years ago in June the all accessible playground went up. Luke has recruited players, buddies, and coaches. Luke has helped the ML with fundraisers, walked in the parade with the group to bring awareness, and helped with special needs trick or treat. Luke gained even more confidence and wanted everyone to “see the colors” of individuals like him and sang God Bless America at the Timber Rattler game twice and sang the national Anthem at opening day and ML games to promote the abilities of those with disabilities. Luke has thrown out the first pitch for the Milwaukee Brewers and was the water boy for the Green Bay packers. He put aside his social and sensory issues to promote the abilities of those with disabilities.
Luke found Generations Against Bullying (GAB) to be unique because it trains to put the power to stop bullying in the hands of kids. Luke believes that when others stand up to Bullying lives are saved and bullying is reduced. GAB has Peer Ambassador Upstander programs, brings movies and well known speakers into communities to help stop bullying and reduce suicides. Luke wants to create a safe place for all, a place where there is no fear of being bullied or judged, a world of full inclusion. Luke talks about acceptance, Autism awareness and bullying in his speeches and has stood up to bullying situations in his school and community. When Luke speaks individuals come up to Luke, us, and his principal and ask how they can start volunteering or how they can make a difference in someone’s life. Others tell him how inspired they are by him. Luke has even addressed his entire student body and received a standing ovation. Luke volunteers because he says that it feels good, that volunteering changes communities, that you make lifelong friendships when you volunteer, and that if people don’t help their communities/organizations they can fall apart. Luke jumps in wherever he is needed. He was once part of the YMCA leadership group, , helped clean up the park, did a book drive to help get books in the hands of kids in DC and Virginia, helps with Christmas in July week at the Miracle League field, rings bells and helps with the salvation army toy drive, raised money for the local K-9 unit, gave stuffed dogs to police officers to give to kids they encounter at Christmas and most recently he spends every day being the football manager for the Manitowoc Lincoln Ships football team and last year managed the 8th grade Chiefs team. Both teams has accepted Luke as one of the team given him jerseys, and even suited him up and run the last touchdown of the season. Luke can never give back to the teams that have given to him.
He has also alongside 3 other kids in our community started backpack buddies where they fill backpacks with essentials and fun things for foster kids in our community(They filled 80 this past September), help with the annual foster family picnic,(bring in food and material donations for door prizes) connect foster families to community activities(finding free events in the community like their partnership with our local YMCA) and help educate the community about foster care thru community talks and their face book page. Eventually they would like to start a grant wish fund for foster kids.(they have a small fund started but really are working to make this happen) . Luke maintains good grades (A’s and B’s) Luke is involved with a lot of sports within special Olympics for the past year. Luke has been recognized with many awards like the Helpful Hearts Award, youth award for WI Council of Administrators, Youngest Volunteer Wisconsin, Youth award for Green Bay volunteer center/WPS Awards, He has received the Prudential Community of Spirit award which he was awarded in Washington DC, the American Legion Good Deed Award, WI Hero Award, the Gold Presidential Award and the Generations Against Bullying Up stander hero Award, Gambler Hometown Hero, Yes I can award, Brewer Community Achiever and the Daily Point of Light Award , Business in Ethics Award by Foundations, Future Horizons Temple Grandin Award.and the JCI WI award. He has been featured on Fox 11 Making a Difference(fox11making a difference Luke smith) Luke is an inspiration to many he overcomes his challenges and puts his anxieties aside to raise awareness. Luke feels honored to receive these awards but he looks at it as an opportunity to get his word/work out further about acceptance, the organizations he works for, volunteering, Autism and Bullying. Luke says in his speech to not judge, be kind, be humble, everyone has a story and anyone can be the change. Luke hopes others will be inspired and pay it forward even if it is one small act like being nice to someone or accept someone looking left out or stand up to bullying.
Luke uses his lost his life to cancer. As we walked thru the cemetery looking at a place to make his final resting place Luke noticed all the veterans’ markers and the American Flags that were placed by the tombstones and asked his dad about when he was in the military. His dad was in the Army active and reserve for over 20 years as a drill sergeant. Luke then wanted to help veterans Luke was chosen to accept his uncle’s flag at the funeral because Luke was his god son. Luke had always had respect for veterans but now looked at it differently. Luke started helping people who are serving or who have already serve so far Luke has helped at benefit at a shooting range interacting with veterans, has sent out letters and went to businesses to bring in donations to help veterans win date nights thru the Green Bay Volunteer Center, handed out flags during the memorial Day parade and in the future at Christmas time would like to bring in donations and put together bags for veterans. Luke has also helped the local firefighters with a boot drive to raise money for Muscular Dystrophy because his dad is affected with this and most recently his mom was re-diagnosed with cancer and a pink tutu club was formed and Luke had no problem wearing his pink tutu out in public, at sporting functions to show his support for individuals affected with cancer, and participating in relay for life.
Luke’s business cards read;
Being humble means recognizing that we are not on this earth to see how important we can become but to see how much difference we can make in the lives of others
and I know Luke really believes in this quote because he knows everyone can be that change one small act at a time.
“I attended an event in Texarkana, Arkansas for GABLIFE2020 featuring Justin Furstenfeld of the band Blue October. It was an amazing experience to be a part of and very inspiring. Unfortunately, since a car accident a couple of years ago, I experience headaches sometimes that can control what I can handle. I had one of these headaches that caused me pain in my eyes, pain across my skull, nausea, and I had trouble driving home that night. I had to leave early and was unable to stay for all the panel discussions….
I was hoping that there was a way to view the entire event again as it was being filmed. I would love for my family members and my fellow educators at my school to experience this event. Furthermore, this event has inspired me to share my story with you as I have come to realize that it is okay to talk about the bad things in life just as we talk about the good things. It allows us to know that we are not alone with these struggles.
As a child, my parents divorced when I was a first-grade student and my life became very unstable. My parents’ divorce and spite towards each other became their focus. I ended up having to repeat the first grade and started my journey as the leverage each parent’s family would use against each other. From that point on, I would never have a stable life again until I met the love of my life and started my family. I attended five different school districts growing up and was bounced from house to house. At different points between the divorce until the time I graduated high school, I lived with each parent, my grandparents, aunts, and uncles. The most difficult of these years was living with my father and his wife. For nearly seven years in my father’s household, I was bullied, beat, and neglected while I watched my stepbrother and half-sister decent lives. I was made to clean, cook, and wait on my father’s wife hand and foot. I was screamed at, told that I was nothing, and physically assaulted by her during that time of my life. My father worked long hours and would come home long after it was dark. Just like her, he physically assaulted me and most times to the point where I was unable to pick my body up off the floor. By the time I was able to play sports in school, I played every sport I could for several reasons. Sports were an outlet for me. They kept me away from home, allowed me a form of therapy, and were able to give me recognition for my abilities. I was angry at the world. During this time in my life, I developed a form of leathered skin. Not only did I get bullied at school for the clothes I wore, the way I smelled, and my overall appearance, I was bullied and abused at home. Around year twelve of my life, I made a decision. If I was going to get beat, I wasn’t going to go down without a fight and I wasn’t going to depend on anyone to raise me. For the next year and a half of my life, I fought back but still ended up on the ground not able to get up. I spent a year and a half of my life in a fist fight with my father. The one-time CPS came and questioned me, they allowed my father and his wife to stand next to me in the room while they questioned me. Of course, I didn’t say anything at the time because I felt intimidated and fear.
On March 11, 2002, I was called to the principal’s office at school. This was my eighth-grade year in school. When I got to the front office of the school, I saw my mom sitting there and she could tell that I was confused. She stated that I had a doctor’s appointment. After we left the school, she informed me in the car that we were actually going to a lawyer’s office. When we got to the lawyer’s office, she explained to me that I was now legally able to choose who I wanted to live with and that I would never have to go back to my father’s house. I was still scared and hesitant to make a decision because I felt that my father and his wife still had control over me. In the end, I made the decision to sign the papers and go home with my mother. These years were tough as well but for a different reason. I moved to a new school and still experienced bullying at school. My social skills were bad, I was just learning how to properly take of myself, and my mother’s health was declining which effected our financial status. We always paid the bills before we put food in the fridge. My mom was having to put money that we didn’t have to fix some of the issues I had. My teeth were bad, she had to replace all of my clothing because she couldn’t get the smell from my father’s house out of them, and her medical expenses were piling up. We moved from place to place due to finances. I ended up living with my grandparents as well as my aunt and uncle during the time I was in high school. My mother’s health had reached the level where she was unable to work anymore, and it took three years for social security/disability to start assistance. Despite the hardships, I excelled in sports and maintained an A-B grade average across my classes. A week after graduating high school, I moved out of the house and began bouncing around from place to place until I moved into an apartment with a couple of girls I met while attending our local community college.
While in my first year of college, I was recruited to work for one of the local school districts as an assistant to one of the department coordinators. She would later become one of my closest friends in life and allowed me an unorthodox work schedule so that I could attend school. After completing my Associate’s Degree, I had trouble continuing school due to financial hardships and funding. While attending the local community college, I met my future wife, Kathy. We went on a couple of dates. She had a two-year-old daughter and is five years older than me. After those dates, we went our different ways, fortunately for me, we worked for the same school district but were unaware of this fact. She worked at one of the elementary schools and I worked in an office in one of the school’s warehouses that stored the school’s schoolbooks and supplies. Around the time I finished my Associate’s Degree, I went to check some of the custodial closets at the school she worked at as it was part of my job to make sure the custodians were following the proper safety guidelines. When I walked into the front office to inform them, I was going to be moving around the campus, Kathy was working in the front office and surprised to see me as I was surprised to see her. We spoke for a second and I went to do my job. It had been a few years since we went on those dates and I was in a different place in my life. On the surface, I displayed an act that I had been displaying for years. I had severe trust issues, emotional issues, and learned how to disguise myself. I filled my time as much as possible to avoid these issues. I worked full-time, went to school full-time, and partied the rest of the time with little to no sleep. Unfortunately, my ADHD kind of helped with this.
About a year after this encounter, I saw Kathy again in the front office of her school and decided to contact her. She met me at a local park that day and we began talking. I had just ended a long relationship that didn’t go great at all and she had just gotten out of a relationship. Both of us were not looking to get back into anything serious but like I did, I was occupying my time the way I did. We decided that we were not going to have anything serious. I never took her to meet my family and she never took me to meet hers. After experiencing divorce as a child and witnessing everyone in my family, with the exception of my grandparents, getting divorced, I decided that I was never looking to get married. After only a few months, I knew that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with Kathy. The problem is that she did not know what I buried under the surface each day. The other problem, at the time, was that I had already enlisted into the United States Army to become a military police officer. Even with the knowledge that I was going to be leaving in May of 2011 to begin my military career, she agreed to marry me. We didn’t rush to get married. I was initially going to be gone five months during training with little to no contact so we decided that we would test the distance and hardship on us. She never wavered and I didn’t hesitate to say, “I Do.” The first few years of marriage were difficult, to say the least. Some of the stuff I buried came to the surface and I deployed less than two months after we were married leaving her and my new daughter, Lexie, behind for over seven months alone in a town where they had no one. She went from being a single mother that was helping to raise her sister’s four children to a married mother who was alone in a town with no one.
After I got home after those seven months, it became even more difficult. I came back not mentally prepare to readjust to life back home and Kathy became pregnant with our youngest daughter, Kailani. As a military police officer, I worked long hours and spent a lot of time away from them. When I was around, we had a lot of bad and unhealthy moments. Lexie was very affectionate. She was six years old and would try to hug me and give me kisses. I was not comfortable with this and I would push her away have the time. A lot of times, I would bring hardships home from work with me and reflect them on my family. As law enforcement, I still witnessed horrific events that affected me as well as had superiors who abused their rank, harassed soldiers, and hazed them. I was one of these soldiers that experienced this type of treatment. Sometimes, they would call me at home, degrade me, and threaten disciplinary action against me. I used the regulations set in place to protect me as much as possible. Not only did I have to handle this situation, I was dealing with an injury I sustained during a training exercise that had been misdiagnosed and led to further deterioration from not being treated correctly. About a year before my injury forced me out of the military, I was giving the opportunity to improve my situation and advance my career by being giving a chance to become a Drug Investigator with the Fort Hood CID office. After successfully completing the training and gaining my certification, I was able to officially leave behind the abuse in my unit. There would be times where I could work 48-72 hours straight due to specific cases, but things were now getting better with the exception of missing time at home. Kathy was at home raising two young children, one being a newborn. As time went by, my injury deteriorated to the point that prevented me from being able to perform all my duties in the military. I went from being a “stud” to not being able to run a hundred feet without my abominable area feeling like it was ripping itself apart. After seeing a specialist, he diagnosed me as having a hernia that healed improperly without the surgery leaving a lot of scar tissue and debilitating my physical abilities.
So, on July 28th, 2014, my military career ended abruptly leading to my family moving back home with no plan. My wife went back to work at her old school. I was able to find employment with the school district as an aide at an elementary, but we still needed help. We tried to get assistance but we were told that we were just above the line with my disability even though it would be over a month away before we would see any type of income from our new employment or the disability so we used credit cards to get by. A few months later, I would experience another tragedy.
On Veteran’s Day of 2014, my mother’s health issues became too great and she passed away when her heart stopped as they were taking her back for tests at the emergency room. Without insurance, my brother, my grandparents, my uncle, and myself had to come up with the money to pay for the funeral. I maxed out all my credit cards and the value of my car to take care of my portion of the money putting us into greater financial hardship. After about another year, I went back to school to finish my Bachelor’s Degree and put me one step closer to becoming a teacher. I have finished my Bachelor’s Degree while maintaining a 4.0 GPA, working full-time, and being a full-time parent. I am now a first-generation college graduate and working on my Master’s Degree with a concentration in Curriculum & Instruction. Recently, I was invited to join my second honor’s program as I have been classified in the top ten percent of juniors, seniors and graduate students at Texas A&M University – Texarkana. However, unlike my initial plan to teach at the high school level and coach, I decided that I wanted to work with younger children as I had gone through various changes, some prior to marriage and a lot due to my marriage. I wasn’t angry at the world anymore and I had learned to open up about the difficulties of my life and express myself. There are still times where I experience this depression and pain, but I have learned how to not let it control my life.
I now work at a school with the majority of the student being classified as at-risk. I have taught technology and robotics as a special assignment aide with the school district. As of January 6th, 2020, I became the Fine Arts teacher and started living one of my dreams of being a guiding influence for as many children that will allow me to be that for them. For these kids, it is important to me to allow them to know specific details about me as I preach to them that, “where you come from does not determine where you will end up.” I was abused, bounced from house to house, told that I would never amount to anything, and I am still here. I believe I have been able to build a trust with a lot of my students because I allow them to be a part of my life and I have been where most of the students at my school are currently at. My wife is the best choice I have ever made in my life and has giving me so much. She still continues to take care of her family even when they are awful to her. It’s this type of heart that I fell in love with. I have two beautiful daughters that help make my heart whole. Currently, we took in two of my wife’s sisters’ kids, Elijah and Jaslene. Their two older siblings are living with their grandparents about three hours from our home. Their father has been incarcerated for years with 2024 date of getting out and their mom is not living up to her responsibilities as a mother. The kids have told me that she’s out all night, comes home drunk, and that they are not sure sometimes if they have a mom anymore. Last November, they were evicted from their apartment and we took in the two younger siblings. Since coming to live with us, Elijah has gone from having a failing average at school to making the A-B honor roll in his first full grading period at school. He has a lot of potential and loves basketball, but he’s been exposed to some things that have shaped him the wrong way. When I get asked why I have two extra kids in my house, “I tell them that growing up I had a few people that showed up for me and if I can be that for these kids, I will.” Growing up I never had a safe place. I experience abuse at home and at school but was somehow lucky enough to have had certain influences and events that shaped me the right way. Thank you for listening to my story.”
“I was fortunate to watch a movie through GAB-(Generations Against Bullying), where the nature of the subject matter not only it being a sensitive one, the highlights therein stress the importance to discuss it and find ways and means to alleviate the stigma “Bullying” portrays within our society today…
Societal development comes about when we as a group of people are able to work together, co-habitate and appreciate the existence of individual and collective abilities we have to make a change in our environment.
The movie also opens up a dialogue for participation amongst parents and upstanders who are deemed key players, in trying to inform and educate schools and the public about the detriments of bullying. We can all take an important lesson from such a sensitive topic to create a working/habitable environment and/or society, where folks don’t only stand by, but take responsibilities to help curtail this growing epidemic. Let’s all stop “Bullying” by empowering the upstanders, and educating bystanders about the need to speak up for those that are being bullied. The sharing of information here plays a very significant role in terms of making the proper decisions to curb such activity within our schools, our environment and the society in which we live.
My initial contact with GAB – (Generations Against Bullying), registered a reminder as to what happened to me 30 years plus ago back in Africa. Having being informed about the undertaking of GAB, I came to understand that the subject of “Bullying” has no boundaries. Something like this that took place so long ago was brought back to my memory just by watching a movie shown by GAB, on May 30, 2017.
I was teased and put down on so many occasions by fellow classmates during my primary school days, who didn’t care to know the danger of their actions. This was in Sierra Leone, West Africa; and being so ignorant of the subject matter I told no one, not even my parents. All I did and hoped for was to ignore the problem and move on to another school. In fact the subject of bullying was never discussed by school authorities to begin with. The bullying continued even when I graduated and went to high school. I was always beaten and threatened by a fellow schoolmate after school; he thought it as a way of saying “welcome to secondary life-“a statement he made every time he threw me to the ground. By 1983, I went back on vacation to my home Country-Liberia and told my parents that I was never going back not only to that school, but to Sierra Leone. I only survived the amount of years I stayed there due to help I always received from a dear friend who was much stronger than the guy who bullied me all the time. He graduated from the school during the year I went back home.
I learned from GAB that this dear friend of mine was acting as an Upstander. GAB’s new Upstander Logo serves as a typical reminder of the need to curtail this growing epidemic-“Bullying-“ taking place in our schools, our environment and the society in general.”