"Make Some Noise! Upstanders Unite Against
Bullying," a new bullying prevention conference, saw teenagers
harnessing their creativity to create their own solutions to bullying
"Who all wanted to be here today?" asks a voice from the front of the auditorium. A few meek hands slowly rise up into the air.
"Okay. Who here was forced to come?" A nervous silence, and then dozens of hands shoot up and giggles waft through the room.
"That's what we're here to work on."
Each year, schools and youth groups across the country hold countless
assemblies and conferences in attempts to combat our ever-present
problem with bullying. These meetings generally begin with a monotone
lecture from an old man in a suit and end with hundreds of bored
teenagers checking Facebook on their iPhones.
Last Friday, a new kind of bullying prevention conference was born at the Athenaeum.
Dubbed "Make Some Noise! Upstanders Unite Against Bullying," the
conference aimed to help teenagers connect and discover ways to combat
bullying in their own lives.
"These kids already know the right thing to do. We hope to help build
the courage for them to do it," said John McShane, Director of Community
Programs at the Peace Learning Center. "By the end of this, we want to
release 150 upstanders into the community."
According to McShane, an "upstander" is anyone who stands up for
themselves and for others, refusing to tolerate bullying and peer
Groups from across the city, including the Young
Actors Theatre, presented interactive activities to lead the
The free event, conceived only a few weeks prior, saw Indiana's
Department of Mental Health and Addiction (DMHA) reaching out to the PLC
in order to create a conference that invites teenagers to share their
thoughts and solutions on bullying in their own lives. The PLC's mission
to promote a peaceful community shows in this event and countless
prior, as they provide services teaching conflict resolution throughout
all facets of the community.
"The DMHA acted as sponsor, and we are more of the facilitators," clarifies McShane.
The event began as a customary assembly, with various speakers
explaining the bullying problem in today's youth and hoping to inspire
the teenagers to take charge. This, however, is when the traditional
conference took an untraditional turn.
An interactive survey with real time results persuaded the teenagers to
answer various questions about the bullying they witness in daily life.
"It's called social norming," explained Kristina Hulvershorn, Youth
Programs Director at the PLC. "Based on the survey, the vast majority
see it happening everyday and vast majority think it's wrong."
By showing the results to the participants, Hulvershorn hoped to create
an understanding and camaraderie, encouraging them to make a difference.
Participants could choose carious breakout
sessions, like Localmotion's spoken word session, to find their own ways
to stand up to bullies.
The interactive conference continued with Claud McNeil, who came up to
the podium to introduce "ACT Out," an educational theatre program. The
structured improvisation allowed audience members to fix the problems
that the actors performed in front of them.
The scenes represented various realistic situations that occur in every
circle. At the beginning, the teenagers laughed and hollered at
derogatory remarks and hurtful jokes. However, once it came time for
them to remedy the situation, they transformed.
One man raised his hand, offering his definition of a "true friend" in
contrast to the bullies in front of him. When he finished, the teenagers
around the room unexpectedly applauded. In that moment, the event
changed from something kids were "forced" to attend to something truly
enlightening, where participants came together to discuss real world
After the large group assembly, participants were able to attend
breakout sessions in which they could address bullying and peer
mistreatment in their own ways. Sessions dealt with the problem through
music, spoken word, acting, and even button making, giving participants
the opportunity to connect with each other in ways they actually wanted
to. They created a forum where the young people were able to tell their
The new event stressed the importance of youth voice, bringing together 150 teenagers against bullying.
The event was a major success, with participants signing up from across
the city. The summit brought in all types of groups and individuals,
from The Girl Scouts to 100 Black Men.
"We had to close registration," said Tiffany Tibbot, Youth Development
Facilitator at the PLC. "It was capped at 150 kids, ages 12 to 19."
Bullying is not a new phenomenon, but it has changed. Kids can't run
home to hide from the big neighborhood bully. With the dawning of new
technology and cyber-bullying, there is no safe place to go. This new
conference strove to demonstrate that the only way to stop the problem
is for the young people themselves to lead the conversation against
"We want to create a community in which everyone is welcome and no one
is alone," said McShane. "This is just the beginning of the