Not Hopeless: Integrating Trauma-Informed Care To Positively Impact Youth Considering Self-Harm

Note: This post may trigger an adverse reaction. If it is beginning to upset you, please stop reading and talk to your support team.

Young people who take their own lives: know the warning signs of mental illness

We are saddened by the continuing statistics surfacing around youth suicide, including the 2 most recent in Parkland, Florida. While school safety is the largest visible topic that we address across the country with our STOPit platform, the hidden issue we address far more commonly relates to youth depression, mental illness and suicidal thoughts.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), for every child lost in a school violence/shooting in the United States, there are 25 lost to suicide. In fact, upwards of 6% of the reports we receive on our platform each week in K12 schools are tied to suicide.

School shootings need to end, and at STOPit we are dedicated to continuing to help avoid planned attacks and violence with our approach that encourages bystanders to become upstanders. However, for every school threat avoided, we help avoid significantly more self harm incidents thanks again to upstanders using STOPit. It is clear that youth suicide is an epidemic that should emerge as an equally high priority in the wake of recent tragedies.

As such, we teamed up with Strive, a trauma-informed outpatient recovery program, to discuss how they have implemented evidence-based techniques to help individuals, schools, and communities heal from the results of trauma. As experts in this field, they have a valuable perspective on how to help avoid these events before they occur and how to implement effective programs if they ever did.

Q: Let’s start with the environment before there is a tragedy. Students often know when their friends are struggling. They recognize telltale signs and behaviors that are indicators of broader issues. How do you communicate with schools and their students about the importance of saying something, knowing this?

Strive: We point out to schools that students, who spend all their time with their peers, notice much more than the more openly troubling behaviors of their friends.

There are the obviously dangerous behaviors: John is getting into fights where he never did before. Mary is smoking (marijuana). Someone is cutting themselves (self-harm).

But there are also more subtle warning signs. It takes training and education to notice these:

– “My friend doesn’t want to do the things he used to love to do; he won’t play Lacrosse anymore, say.” Hearing this, a counselor might ask, “Why not? Is your friend under pressure not to fail? Is he being mocked? Threatened?”

– “I notice that Jennifer is only eating salads lately. And she’s dressing differently.”

– “My buddy Tom is suddenly eating alone in the cafeteria and doesn’t talk much.”

These are all behaviors which might point to depression, anxiety, or social tensions.  Students, and frankly many adults, won’t pick up on them because they seem inconsequential. But to counselors, they might turn out to be important indicators, warning signs.

We don’t want to over diagnosis; but we must be aware.

The key point is, to notice these things takes education and training, for all of us, and especially for young people. Then they need an accessible way to report them, a way they will accept and use within their own value system.

Q: We all went to school, and we know the feeling at that age that it’s socially risky to “get other kids into trouble.

Strive: Yes, kids have their culture, and it seems risky to ‘tattle’, to tip off the school or parents to these issues, especially regarding the bigger problems. But we believe we can change this attitude for many young people. We try hard to reach young people about caring, and real responsibility for their friends.  Couple this approach with a way of reporting behaviors anonymously, and schools and parents can begin receiving — literally — life-saving information.

Q: Can you talk a little about the importance of 24/7 monitoring; so not only in school but also after school?

Strive: Yes, a few points on this are important to understand.

In the evenings, young people can become disconnected from their social milieu even though they may think that social media substitutes. Weekends, especially Sundays, the “reentry day,” can become problematic for young people with anxiety or depression. So 24/7 family support and awareness, and if necessary, communicating back to school counselors is critical.

Young people express anxiety and depression differently than adults.  While adults may become saddened or suppressed, young people are likely to become irritable, or transfer emotional pain to their bodies, as chronic pain, or headaches, or even stomach aches. Adolescents can become resistant and antagonistic as any parent knows.

We believe it’s important to have a set dinner time, preferably with the phones turned off. Behavioral issues are a disease of disconnection, so we urge families to connect and listen.

We don’t want to become helicopter parents, but we do want to keep a line in.

Q: As a service provider addressing trauma, you deal first-hand with children’s safety and that must, at times, feel daunting. How do you stay positive and what is your advice to those  that are feeling overwhelmed by the statistics around self harm and suicide in our youth?

Strive: You said it! We are exposed to trauma every day, sometimes all day and it isn’t easy.   But trauma is not the only phenomenon in this life. We urge people to express gratitude, with intention and with honest feeling for the wonderful people and beautiful things that do happen around us. One clinician at Strive creates a “gratitude list.” There are clinicians and clients who balance the bad by making a point of helping— a friend, a social agency. And hey, you can turn off the cable TV every so often.

We thank Strive for helping us with the discussion around this difficult topic and we appreciate the Strive Cares perspective.

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Are you, or is someone you know, struggling with thoughts of suicide or self-harm?

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a national network of local crisis centers, and provides free and confidential emotional support to people who are in crisis, or experiencing emotional distress, 24/7. For immediate assistance, call 1-800-273-8255.

Sexual Assault Awareness Month is April: Stay Informed, Stay Vigilant and Take Action to Combat Sexual Assault

The momentum of movements like Me Too and Time’s Up is causing society to make a major shift in how we discuss and react to sexual violence, as well as how sexual assaults are identified, reported, and prevented. And there is no time is better to lead and participate in these discussions than now, since April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM), a time when survivors and advocacy groups work to raise awareness surrounding the pervasive issue of sexual violence.

And the prevalence of sexual assault can be shocking.

According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC):

  • 1 in 5 women and 1 in 71 men will be raped at some point in their lives.
  • 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually abused before they are 18 years old.
  • 1 in 5 women and 1 in 16 men are sexually assaulted while in college.
  • 90% of college sexual assault victims don’t report the assault.
  • Rape is the most underreported crime: 63% of cases are never reported to police.

These statistics make it clear that sexual assault is a serious and widespread problem. Moreover, in addition to immediate costs such as medical expenses and missed wages, sexual assault can have devastating long-term impacts like post-traumatic stress disorder and depression.

What’s not as clear, as evidenced by a growing body of research, is how victims can safely reach out to report incidents and ask for help. Anecdotal and peer-reviewed research both confirm that victims of sexual assault, rape, or sexual abuse almost unanimously report that it is often confusing to know where to turn to report an incident — and it’s always intimidating.

Statistics and surveys are also showing that while the #MeToo movement may be encouraging more victims feel to come forward, victims and witnesses are not reporting these attacks using traditional methods. Survivors have given the following reasons for not reporting a sexual assault:

  • Fear of retaliation
  • Scared of hostile treatment by the authorities
  • Uncertain that authorities would consider the incident serious enough
  • Did not want family or friends to know about it
  • Didn’t know how to report the incident

Workplaces and schools can take a modern approach to protecting their people and their reputation by utilizing smartphone apps like STOPit as a 21st century solution. These tools are designed to create a safe space for students and employees to report incidents freely—and without fear. The hope is that by making it simple and anonymous, people will be encouraged to report, which allows for real-time, positive intervention for the victim as well as the additional benefit of helping to quickly identify repeat offenders.

Learn More About How STOPit Can Empower People to be Courageous When Confronting Sexual Assault

It’s encouraging to recognize that safe, anonymous reporting tools and improvements in organizational cultures are bolstering the courage of bystanders — giving them the confidence to get involved in protecting their co-workers by providing corroborating evidence in support of a friend’s, classmate’s or co-worker’s report. In a problem this serious, we celebrate every step forward.

“I Ask” for “Awareness to Action”

The National Sexual Violence Resource Center, a leading nonprofit in providing information and tools to prevent and respond to sexual violence, has adopted “I Ask” as their theme for this year’s SAAM. The campaign, “champions the message that asking for consent is a healthy, normal, and necessary part of everyday interactions.” Words and actions shape our world and culture: raising awareness of how often sexual violence happens; talking about consent; sharing safety, prevention, and reporting strategies; and learning helpful and compassionate ways to talk to survivors are the goals of SAAM.

The good news is that individuals, communities, and companies are already taking important steps to successfully combat the risk of sexual harassment, misconduct, and abuse through conversations, programs, policies, and tools that promote safety, respect, and equality. Marriott has received a lot of recent, positive press for its corporate commitment to stamping out human trafficking in the hospitality industry.

Campaigns like #MeTooK12 and RAAIN’S Awareness to Action, provide everything from statistics to help define the problem and put it in context, to practical tools like scripts for how to hold a conversation with friends, family and community about sexual violence. They even provide ready-to-go graphics and campaign hashtags to help promote the conversation on social media platforms.

Encouraging as these campaigns are, however, we need to stay committed to working for real, lasting solutions to sexual violence in our workplaces, schools and communities. Recent news stories like the one that exposed rampant corruption —  including cheating and bribery — in the college admissions scandal, make it easier for us to allow the seriousness of this issue fade into the background and threaten to drown out emerging conversations that are calling for action — like those that are happening right now in higher education.

In fact, sexual misconduct is the most frequently reported and managed incident type on the STOPit app for Higher Education customers. Cases brought against campuses, including William Paterson University, and Ivy League schools such as Yale University where three students have filed a class-action lawsuit, arguing that the university has enabled a fraternity culture of harassment, remind us to remain engaged and vigilant — even as we celebrate progress towards the goal of making sexual harassment and victimization, rare.

Let’s Do More All Year Long to Combat Sexual Assault.

What else can be done to help? Individuals can show support for survivors, stand up to victim blaming, correct harmful misconceptions, and promote everyday consent.

Though it is certainly a good thing that SAAM gives us an opportunity to come together as a community to learn more and do more, one month isn’t enough to solve the widespread issue of sexual violence. However we can use the attention SAAM generates as an opportunity to energize and expand prevention efforts throughout the year.

The NSVRC is calling on supporters to wear teal on April 2, their “Day of Action,” as a way to spread awareness and show solidarity with survivors.

For more ideas and opportunities to get involved all month long, visit these organizations online:

National Sexual Violence Resource Center

RAAIN

NO MORE

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention

Each voice is powerful and necessary in preventing sexual violence, misconduct, and abuse. SAAM is a powerful a reminder that we can change the world through the things we say and do each day.

For more information about STOPit and how organizations are using the anonymous reporting app to encourage healthier, safer communities, workplaces and schools, call one of our safety solutions experts, today.

Moms Empower Bystanders To Become Upstanders with Technology: STOPit Joins Experts for Podcast On Bullying in Schools

Moms Empower Bystanders To Become Upstanders with Technology:

STOPit Joins Experts for Podcast On Bullying in Schools

Recently, Neil Hooper, COO of STOPit Solutions, appeared on WJCT Radio with host of First Coast Connect, Melissa Ross, and fellow guests Dr. David Chesire of the University of Florida Health Jacksonville and Bryna Rodenhizer, Contributor to the Jacksonville Moms Blog. During the nearly 30 minute interview, they talked frankly about the impact of bullying in schools, including the importance of empowering bystanders to be part of the solution to what UNESCO recently named a global epidemic.

We’re happy to share an excerpt of this conversation here, as well as a link to the audio for the entire morning show segment.

WJCT is a local affiliate of NPR Radio.

Melissa Ross: Good morning, we’re live from studio five, and this is First Coast Connect. I’m Melissa Ross, and thanks for listening. Just ahead this morning, how local schools are empowering kids to use their phones to stop bullying and cyber abuse.

Melissa Ross: Next week the Glenn County, Georgia school system plans to launch a new program called STOPit. It’s a new technology platform that helps schools stop bullying, cyber abuse, threats of violence, kids self-harming, and other troublesome behaviors. Now, the way STOPit works is students can submit anonymous reports through the platform, either by text message, photos, or video. They go straight to school administrators, who can then conduct investigations and make schools safer. We’re really curious to learn more about STOPit, so we’re going to take a closer look at this new app, and also, how bullying affects kids in schools and how that’s being studied here in our area.

Melissa Ross: As we welcome Dr. David Chesire, associate professor, University of Florida Health Jax. He’s on the line. Good morning doctor.

Dr. David C.: Good morning, glad to be here.

Melissa Ross: Neil Hooper is with us. He’s the Chief Operating Officer for STOPit, also joining us by phone. Hi Neil.

Melissa Ross: (also) Joining us here in studio, Bryna Rodenhizer. She’s a contributor to the Jacksonville Moms Blog. Bryna, good morning to you.

Bryna R.: Good morning.

Melissa Ross: Thanks for being with us. Okay. In a moment we’ll learn a little bit more about the STOPit…

Neil Hooper: Hi Melissa.

Melissa Ross: Hi Neil, Chief Operating Officer of STOPit. Thanks for being with us. All right, STOPit, this new app that’s going to launch next week up in Georgia, in Glenn County, how does it work?

Neil Hooper: Well, I think you gave a great introduction. We’re in over 3,000 schools now and what happens is we announce to the students that the app is available, they go to the app store or Google Play and download the app. They type in their school code and then their messages are routed directly to school administrators. It works really well and actually what the audience may be interested in is the … We often find that it’s a bystander that is submitting the report.

Melissa Ross: Right. Empowering kids who are not either bullies or being bullied to speak up, the bystander effect, that’s been studied in schools. This is a way for kids who might, I guess, feel intimidated about speaking up to do so. Is that right?

Neil Hooper: Well, that’s right, and key to our solution is that we provide anonymity for the students. The greatest fear that most kids have in school is being labeled a snitch. I think we can all … I think many of us would agree that our kids are good kids and they want to do the right thing, but they’re afraid to do the right thing, so by making it anonymous, they can have the courage to do the right thing, speak up when they know something is wrong, and as I said, the message will be routed directly to the school and then the school with the STOPit platform can communicate back and forth with the student on the app and gather more information about what’s going on.

Neil Hooper: We find that giving the kids an avenue to speak up and then giving the school a way to communicate back and forth with that brave reporter can help us get to the bottom of issues before they spiral out of control. I think the downstream effects of not addressing bullying can be really scary and we’re seeing some horrible statistics nationally about youth depression and youth suicide and we really want to get ahead of these things before they spiral out of control.

Melissa Ross: Just last week, a 10 year old boy in Louisville, Kentucky committed suicide and his parents say it’s because he had been bullied at school over a medical condition, a medical defect that he had, and so Neil, this is very serious business, kids are killing themselves. Let me ask you though as a follow up, with the STOPit app, are you concerned at all about kids using it maliciously, filing false reports and are there legal issues, liability issues around kids taking videos and sending them to administrators?

Neil Hooper: Well, I’ll take the legal question first. The good news is that these solutions are protected by federal law, so there is no issue whatsoever of a minor reporting these things to the school. The network is entirely private, so the students reports go only to the school and then the school communicates back and forth to students. So, that is … There’s no liability there that’s been investigated, and we abide by COPPA and FERPA and other related federal laws, so that’s okay.

Neil Hooper: The schools themselves have, of course, the responsibility to read these messages if they’re sent in, and we provide a service and Glenn County has added this service, we’ll actually monitor the account for our schools to make sure that they’re made aware that something has been reported. We’ll contact the school to let them know a child has sent something, so we really have their backs, so to speak, to make sure that if something is reported, it’s taken care of.

Melissa Ross: Bryna. Bryna Rodenhizer, who writes for the Jacksonville Moms Blog, and you’ve written about bullying, as a parent, as you’re listening to this, what are your thoughts?

Bryna R.: Oh, I think it’s fantastic. I think it’s great to have that resource available for children who are old enough to use it. I think that it is a great segue from teaching younger children how to address bullying, and then once they’re older, and it’s appropriate to use that app, I think it’s fantastic.

Melissa Ross: Dr. David Cheshire is on the line with us from UF Health Jax. Until recently you were a trauma psychologist, and Dr. Cheshire, UF Health has even been conducting a study on the public health effects of school bullying, what are your thoughts about the way new technological innovations are being developed to address this issue, because certainly schools have tried all kinds of avenues to deal with bullying? What about this?

Dr. David C.: Yeah, no, I always say when we do public health meetings, the second we start talking about bullying, that’s the rest of the meeting, it’s what we’re going to talk about from that point forward, because it is such a sprawling problem and difficult to deal with. I’m in favor of any tools that are out there that we can use if they’re effective, and this one sounds like a great one. It’s going to be as effective as the school makes it. I like what he (Hooper) said earlier about the school’s (being) ultimately responsible for investigating what’s going on. I think that’s where basically everything’s going to fall.

Dr. David C.: For children, well, for anybody really, but for children in particular, what’s most important is that they feel that they’ll be believed when they make a report, that they feel that there’ll be some sort of follow up and that they don’t have the fear of retaliation, which kind of gets to that question you had about will this be used actually in and of itself be bullying too? So to the extent that kids feel comfortable with this, I think it’d be an amazing tool to try to identify and ultimately defeat bullying in schools.

Melissa Ross: Neil Hooper of STOPit, this is enrolling next week in Glenn county, Georgia. You’re also in some other Florida school districts and districts all over the country. Correct? I believe you’re even looking at using this app in adult workplaces as well. Is that right?

Neil Hooper: That’s right. We have 12 live accounts in Florida. We’re new to Florida, and we’re expanding across the country, and yes, the issues that we’re describing in schools, I think we would all agree often are seen in the workplace as well, around harassment and discrimination concerns. Once again, these things happen and people are afraid to speak up because they’re afraid about their job. So the power of STOPit is with the ability to report anonymously and for the right people to communicate back to the individual to gather more information about what’s going on.

Melissa Ross: How about the fact too that kids use their phones to bully each other, to cyber bully each other, so in effect you’re giving children a weapon, I guess, to fight back, empowering them to use their phones to turn the dynamic around, it sounds like?

Neil Hooper: Well, Melissa, I’m glad you brought that up, and that’s … What you’ve just said there was the formation of our company. We noticed that with the advent of smartphones, and kids over the last few years have increasing access to both smartphones and social media applications, they are using those devices and those applications to cyber bully. Often the cyber bullying is done in a group environment, imagine in many of these cases, there are three or four or five or six classmates picking on another student in one of these group text settings. As you said, we can turn this situation around. You can take a screenshot of this horrible behavior, attach it to a STOPit report, send it to the administration and you have an adult step in and put an end to this very bad behavior.

Melissa Ross: Bryna Rodenhizer of the Jacksonville Moms blog, this is something you’ve blogged about, how important it is to educate kids not to be silent if they see another child being bullied or harmed. There’s a documentary film about this, Submit, The Documentary, that you’ve blogged about. Do you think that, with your own kids, I know that with your own kids you’ve had to talk to them about bullying and try to comfort them sometimes when they’ve dealt with school bullies as so many of us have as parents. It’s terrifying as a parent to think about your child being treated this way.

Bryna R.: The bystander effect is real. Bystanders can do a lot of good, or they can do a lot of harm. Right. They absolutely can. It’s important to me as a mom to teach my children the importance of being a safe place for their friends and their neighbors, people in the community. Teaching them that they should always be a warm and welcoming place that someone would feel safe to tell them if something was making them sad or hurting their feelings.

Melissa Ross: Dr. Cheshire with UF Health, can you bring us up to date? I don’t think you’re the lead author on the study, but on the study that UF Health is conducting right now about bullying and how it is a public health crisis for young people.

Dr. David C.: Sure. Basically, the numbers are kind of all over the place depending on the research you’re looking at, for how often bullying occurs and not just focusing on those being bullied, the survivors of bullying, but also the bullies themselves because so many people who are bullying had been bullied for themselves. The reason that so much of the research right now is looking at children, is because this is the formative time where people are learning how to deal with adversity, and so the very same coping strategies that they learn and what’s effective and what keeps them safe, is what they’re going to take with them into adulthood, and so if you learn that aggression for the sake of aggression worked for you as a bully, you’re probably going to bring that with you to college and beyond, and it’s going to start getting you into all kinds of trouble there.

Dr. David C.: So focusing on children to learn more effective strategies of how to deal with adversity, how to deal with not getting your own way, and also how to deal when somebody is stepping on your own rights, who to go to, where are safe places to go. And absent that, too often people isolate themselves because they don’t trust the authority, or they don’t know who to go to, or which adults to go to, and there’s so many resources out there from the school teacher, to the principal, to the school psychologist, to the school social worker, and on and on, the children don’t feel safe with those people. They isolate themselves and become further targets for bullying too because they lose their resources.

Melissa Ross: All right. I’ll have to leave it there. Bryna Rodenhizer, Jax Moms Blog. Neil Hooper, who is the COO of STOPit, and Dr. David Chesire of UF Health Jax. Thanks so much.

There IS a solution.

STOPit has had the great privilege of meeting people all over the country and around the world who are bravely, and effectively, addressing the issues of bullying, harassment and intimidation. With each conversation, we are more encouraged than ever that bullying and its consequences may one day soon be the exception rather than the rule in school culture, workplace culture and our communities.

For more information about STOPit and its impact, including how the mobile app empowers bystanders to become upstanders, call us now and speak with one of our subject experts.

Empowering School Administrators and Students with New Libraries of Social and Emotional Learning Content

They say the three R’s (reading, writing, arithmetic) are the cornerstone of a good education, but don’t SEL short the importance of social and emotional learning.

Each day children go to school, they broaden their perspectives through their course work and structured instruction. At the same time, each conversation they have with their peers, every emotion they feel when they get back a test score, each time they interact with children different than themselves, they are navigating a social and emotional learning (SEL) process that will help form who they are and who they’ll become in life.

A growing body of evidence suggests that a student’s SEL environment can significantly impact their academic success. Those who feel confident and comfortable in the classroom tend to be better-focused and more engaged students. In response, school districts across the country are incorporating SEL lessons into their curricula from the early years on through high school.

A November report by the nonprofit Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL), a leader in the research and advocacy of SEL programs in U.S. schools, concluded that most high school students believe their schools could do a better job of helping them develop SEL skills. CASEL surveyed 1,300 current students and recent graduates of high schools that were rated as having high, medium or low SEL capabilities – that is, tools and programs specifically geared toward helping educators develop key social and emotional skills. Overall, students from strong SEL schools reported doing much better academically and feeling better prepared for life than those in weak SEL schools. Among the other findings:

  • Nearly nine out of 10 students at strong SEL schools felt motivated to work hard and do their best in school, compared to just 39 percent of students in weak SEL schools.
  • More than half of the current high school students said that feeling stressed and dealing with disruptive students in class make it harder for them to learn and do their best in school.
  • Citing the trends with younger students, Project Achieve confirms that Elementary School Principals’ biggest concern is addressing students’ behavior and emotional problems.
  • Vulnerable students feel especially impacted by social and emotional problems in school. For example, students from lower-income homes are less likely to feel comfortable participating (39 percent) and excited about learning (48 percent) in school than their more privileged peers.

STOPit Solutions is the only anonymous reporting application to offer SEL resources for educators and student users. The STOPit SEL Center contains an easy-to-search database of articles, studies, video, audio and other content covering topics from bullying to depression. It is carefully curated by a team of experts, sparing users the time and effort required to sift through Google returns and determine if they’re reputable.

The SEL content has a natural connection to STOPit’s mission, as the most frequently reported incident types closely align with the kinds of stressors that impede student learning. The top five most common incidents of the 2017-18 school year were misconduct, harassment, bullying, substance abuse and threats.

Administrators can share anonymous links to SEL content that are untraceable, giving students the comfort of knowing that their conversations will remain private.

“The SEL Center library gives both staff and students access to accurate and timely information right through the STOPit app – and makes the STOPit platform truly different than standard tip apps,” said Wally Leipart, a K-4 school principal and administrator in the Gilman (Wis.) School District. “The SEL content library has increased our confidence that we can properly respond to our students.”

STOPit’s broadcast feature also makes it possible to send anonymous links to a full student body at once. This can be especially useful in times when an administrator would like to address an emerging school-wide problem.

“Suicidal ideation is very prevalent right now and we’re getting more and more reports about it,” STOPit COO Neil Hooper said. “If there’s content you’d like to send around for a special topic area like that, you can just get the anonymous link, type in a message and broadcast it out to everyone who has the app.”

Contact STOPit today to learn more about how we can assist with your school’s SEL efforts.

During National Catholic Schools Week, Let’s Stop Bickering Over the Term ‘Bullying’, and Make Positive Action A Priority

Frank A. DiLallo

National Catholic Schools Week has been an annual celebration of Catholic education in the U. S. for the last 45 years. The theme for Catholic Schools Week from January 27 to February 2, 2019 is; “Catholic Schools: Learn. Serve. Lead. Succeed.”

There are few greater threats to all schools than bullying. There is absolutely no school immune to peer mistreatment and the insidious impact it has on learning and the overall school climate. In every way, peer mistreatment is the antithesis to learning, serving, leading and succeeding.

The good news is that a myriad of successful strategies is available for positive and hopeful response. We can literally turn this problem into an opportunity for FORMATION and CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT!

With formation and character development in mind, it is imperative that we put things into perspective. The term “Bullying” is highly ambiguous and consensus about how, exactly, to characterize bullying behavior is extremely elusive. Every person who learns of an incident wears a subjective lens based on their own previous experiences (personal and professional). Often, administrators, teachers, and parents get hung up on the conundrum; “Is this or is this not bullying?”, at the expense of a quick intervention and resolution. As research proves that asking this question, “Is this really bullying?”, is bound to cause a great deal of consternation and confusion between school and home – with plenty of room for disagreements I feel the term “peer mistreatment” is more accurate, and reduces confusion and the likelihood that adults will label, or make assumptions about a child’s character or intentions.

Most likely, trying to get to the bottom of whether a situation is bullying or is not bullying is well intended, however the energy expended to make such a determination is exhausting and can be highly erroneous. By viewing all behaviors as “bullying” we can run amuck; the risk of unwittingly under responding to a volatile situation, such as physical assault, or over responding to a less serious situation, such as eye rolling.

We should by all means take every incident seriously, however after investigating, our efforts should focus on tailoring a unique response based on the developmental age of the child(ren) and the severity of the situation. We are not responding to “bullying”, we are sensitively responding to misguided actions. Please remember; “This child made a mistake, he/she is not a mistake.”

The #1 top priority for adults at school and parents at home should always include two key questions:

  1. Did the action(s) cause or does the action(s) have the potential to cause physical or emotional harm?
  2. Did the action(s) interfere with or does the action(s) have the potential to interfere with student learning?

It is important for us to create a paradigm shift from problem-centric bullying language, to more effectively align our responses with positive solution-centric approaches that embody compassion. Being Solution-Centric means that we are proactively engaging students in opportunities to learn and grow. Proactive means promoting skill-based learning, whereas anti as in “Anti-bullying” is reactive. It is much more effective and efficient to promote the behaviors we do want in students rather than efforts to eliminate or move student’s away from behaviors we don’t want.

There are many evidenced-based frameworks and programs to promote Pro-Social Skills. Religious and Public Schools adopt approaches that work for their environments. For Catholic and other Christian schools, a Christ-centered focus on the Gospel Guidelines is essential. For public schools Character-Based Education and Social Emotional Learning are key. In both cases, an effective anonymous reporting system such as STOPit should be an integral part of both Christian and public schools to effectively mitigate and respond to students in distress.

With this “new view” in mind; ALL incidents of peer mistreatment are taken seriously and every effort is made to guide misguided actions toward meaningful opportunities to learn, serve, lead and succeed, in educating and promoting pro-social skills for the formation of the whole child.

Helpful Resources
STOPit Solutions
Peace Be With You Christ Centered Bullying Redirect
National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA)
Social Emotional Learning
Character Education

Guest author, Frank A. DiLallo, is a Professional Counselor and certified Prevention Specialist who works in the Office of Child & Youth Protection for the Diocese of Toledo. He frequently consults with principals, teachers and parents for preK-12 in the Diocese, as well as Catholic schools across the country.

DiLallo is also the author of several books and articles that address bullying and its impact, including: Peace Be With You Christ-Centered Bullying Solution, Peace2U Three Phase Bullying Solution, Peace Be With You Christ Centered Bullying Redirect, Bullying Redirect: New Strategies for Christian Educators and Bullying Redirect: New Strategies for Christian Parents.

Learn more about how the STOPit anonymous reporting solution is helping Catholic Schools build safer, more supportive school communities.

New Year Brings New Resolve for Students Ready to Report Bullying

STOPit school administrators, have you seen a few more reports from your students right after the holidays? There is a reason associated with that and here we will share our findings and research.

Unlike what schools typically see a few weeks after opening day — when bullies zero in on their targets and start getting aggressive — many of reports can be taken as a positive sign. Research show that what you’ll see shortly after winter break are students getting long-festering troubles off their chests so they can enjoy a peaceful, productive second half of the school year.

Why? As it turns out, there’s no place like home for the holidays.

“When the students go home for Thanksgiving or Christmas, they have more chances to speak with their older siblings or other trusted family members,” STOPit Solutions Chief Revenue Officer Neil Hooper said. “Over these breaks, students spend extended time with their family, and for college students in particular, it may have been a number of weeks since they last visited home. They often get the guidance they need over these breaks to understand that what they have been experiencing is not acceptable and they need to report what they have seen.”

Emboldened by these discussions, the students take steps necessary to make things right – talking to teachers, acting as upstanders and yes, anonymously reporting issues. According to Hooper, a review of data submitted to STOPit’s 3,000 school customers shows a brief but very valuable statistical increase in reports in the weeks following the long winter break vs. the average for the year.

“We certainly know that there is stress around the holidays, and that not everyone’s holiday break is positive,” Hooper said. “This family stress can be a source of reporting. However, the largest impact of a holiday break is positive.”

STOPit helps ensure that the act of reporting does not add to students’ stress. The mobile app was designed to feel as familiar as possible to today’s generation of digital natives, functioning and appearing just like a text message. Users can count on the knowledge that their conversations will remain completely anonymous, until or unless they choose to identify themselves. For schools that don’t have the staff available to respond to STOPit reports on holidays and other off hours, STOPit also offers a 24/7 monitoring service.

Those assigned to administer STOPit in their schools can return from the break prepared to take advantage of the windfall of information and act to address issues that were kept out of their view.

“School administrators should not only be ready for their return, but this opportunity should be cherished,” Hooper said. “Encouraging students to open up and let their parents be parents, and encouraging students to reflect with their family is an important process. Let’s not forget that helping students is not just for the schools, but for the parents as well.”

This post-holiday surge is just one example of the important, nationwide trends being gleaned through data collected by STOPit schools across the country. In addition to these universal insights, individual schools can also benefit from analytics particular to their own, unique community. Using the STOPit Admin tool, schools can easily identify trends impacting their own students, allowing counselors and educators to prepare and respond to potential opportunities and challenges in the way best suited for their special school community. And with a suite of carefully curated social-emotional learning content now available through the mobile app, schools can easily make positive content available to their students to help them build resiliency on topics most impactful to that student community.

Call us to learn more about how educators are using the insights from STOPit analytics to provide better protection for their students.

The Scars We Can’t See: Neuroscience Proves That Adolescents Are Most At-Risk For Long-Term Consequences of Bullying & Abuse

Even those of us who don’t remember typewriter ribbon and mobile phone deals that included free night and weekend minutes can probably summon up a mental picture of the ineffable James Dean, astride his motorcycle like he owns the world in Rebel Without a Cause, or maybe even hum a few bars of Don’t You Forget About Me from The Breakfast Club. The focus in both these iconic productions rests squarely on the fearless, oftentimes reckless and always passionate energy of their adolescent heroes.

Teenagers and their tumultuous coming-of-age stories are represented throughout history in all art forms all over the world, and for good reason — adolescence is universally recognized as a time during human development of great promise…as well as great consequence.

Few people understand that dichotomy as well as Dr. Jennifer Fraser, PhD, an expert in applied neuroscience who is changing the way bullying is perceived, understood, and treated. Neuroscience is proving the dramatic, and deeply troubling, psychopathological effects that bullying has on the developing brain, and Fraser is leveraging this growing body of research to speak directly to the adults who she feels are most able to do something positive to stop the bullying epidemic and help young brains heal.

“My work focuses on adults, on training adults who are in frequent contact with or who work with adolescents — educators, coaches, medical staff, parents, law enforcement,” she said recently in an interview with STOPit’s CRO, Neil Hooper. “They all need to know that their words and behavior have a tremendous emotional impact on these radically developing brains — even more than with younger children,” she said.

All In The Head: The Real Damage Of Humiliating, Abusive Words On The Adolescent Brain

The teenage years are a time of intensive growth in brain development — paralleling that of the toddler years– and data suggests that the experience of chronic victimization during adolescence induces psychopathological deviations from normal brain development. In other words, a physical change to the brain — literally forming scar tissue, causing shrinkages and other deformities that could change the way these future adults will learn, think and behave. “The fact is that chronic bullying, or worse emotional abuse done by adult, leaves an indelible imprint because it affects hormones, reduces connectivity in the brain, and sabotages new neurons’ growth,” said Fraser.

Neurological studies have found that persistent bullying in high school is not only emotionally traumatizing, it also causes real and lasting damage to the developing young brain. In fact, MRIs show that the brain’s pain response to exclusion and taunting is remarkably similar to its reaction when the body is physically hit or burned.

recent European study that was published in Molecular Psychiatry on teenage brain development and mental health followed 682 young people between the ages of 14 and 19, and tallied 36 in total who reported experiencing chronic bullying during these years. When the researchers compared the excessively bullied participants to those who had experienced less intense bullying, certain sections of the brains of the bullied participants appeared to have actually shrunk in size – a change similar to adults who have experienced severe early life physical stress, such as child abuse.

“I try to explain to them (adults) how we’ve created this bullying culture with our children; in sports, in the performing arts; in academic competition, by modeling our own, shaming, aggressive behavior, and then we turn around in school assemblies and TV spots and tell them not to do it. That’s obviously not working. Too often, these changes – these scars – are programming their brains to perpetuate the abuse and trauma they experienced on others.”

In one of many examples Fraser cites to prove her point, the world renowned educator points to the case of Rutgers University basketball coach, Mike Rice, fired for relentlessly bullying kids on his team; hurling insults, questioning their loyalty, sexual identity and abilities. One student in particular repeatedly felt the lash of the coach’s taunts, laced with homophobic slurs and rants, but it took repeated reports by Assistant Coach, Eric Murdock and finally his handing over of a video of Rice’s abuse to ESPN in order to protect the student-athletes.

“This bullying culture is so deeply embedded in our society, even the most obvious examples are too often shrugged off as part of growing up, perverse rites of passage necessary to “toughen up” children for successful adulthood and motivate them to push past pain to “be their best”. This awful behavior is normalised and dismissed — but it’s not normal behavior,” she said emphatically. “None of this makes any child stronger, smarter, more artistic, or more athletic. It just harms his or her brain, and it might be permanent,” Fraser said.

Leveraging Neuroscience and Social-Emotional Learning to Change Culture

But as with every challenge, there are solutions — if we are willing to find them and determined enough to use them.

In her previous book, Teaching Bullies and her forthcoming book “The Bullied Brain: What Neuroscience Can Teach Us About Brain Scars and How To Heal Them”, Fraser presents a realistic approach to reversing the epidemic of bullying. In this book and in her work as an educator and consultant, Fraser emphasises the importance of SEL, or social-emotional learning, as well as the need to flip-the-script when it comes to reporting bullying and harassment.

“Social-emotional learning — including content and activities that emphasize cooperation, strengths-based motivation and empathy — is one of our greatest, underutilized tools in remaking our culture,” she said. “If we adults make SEL ubiquitous in all disciplines, activities and at all ages — we’ll be pushing a new norm and make bullying a marginalized behavior.”

One component of social-emotional learning is practicing courage — including the courage to speak up for someone in trouble. Fraser believes that every organization should provide an anonymous reporting tool to everyone in that organization, and that there is as much value in a manager or staff member’s ability to report bullying and harassment as there is in empowering a victim to reach out for help.

“In the example of Mike Rice at Rutgers,” Fraser said, “there were several adults – professionals who were mid-level managers or staff who were witnesses and wanted to speak out, but they felt powerless or afraid to go public with their concerns. Tools like the STOPit Solutions reporting app could have made all the difference in this case by empowering both the victims and the adult bystanders to speak up and demand early intervention and resolution.”

Fraser and like-minded colleagues at STOPit are forming strategic partnerships across the globe to bring together the research, tools and leadership critical to understanding the problems and to implementing solutions. Fraser is helping STOPit build a robust library of SEL content, grounded in positive psychology and neuroscience, that organizations can choose to share with their communities — content that directly addresses their own, distinct needs and concerns. STOPit is helping Fraser and others share stories showing how those who report bullying and harassment are heroes — not snitches — and demonstrate how upstanders save lives and protect what’s best in an organization’s culture.

In Fraser’s newly completed online course End Bullying and Abuse Academy, she foregrounds the STOPit reporting app as one of her eight “Rs.” Her eight courses analyze how organizations fail to use SEL and reporting as an early-warning system to keep administrators aware of whether their culture is healthy or showing signs of toxicity. Fraser’s courses teach that at the heart of a healthy system is SEL knowledge, neuroscientific insights and an effective reporting system.

“We have the brain power to make a paradigm shift from the passive acceptance of bullying and abuse to actively practicing empathy and compassion,” said Fraser. “Your corporation, business, schools or sports organization will be more successful once you make that shift. That’s not opinion. It’s grounded in extensive neuroscientific research.”

Call STOPit now to learn more about how communities and school districts are using the innovative app to build resiliency, safety, and deliver mental health first aid to individuals and organizations around the world.

How to Discuss Digital Citizenship with Your Child: Their Rights, Responsibilities and How to Stay Safe in the Cybersphere

By Melissa Straub
Founder, High Impact Youth Training Solutions
and Without A Trace Investigations

In my years consulting with schools and investigating social media, cybercrime and cyberbullying issues, I’ve become all too familiar with the endless number of virtual landmines that our kids encounter every day on their cell phones and computers.

Thankfully, the challenge can be managed. But it requires a healthy dose of attention and accountability by the adult role models in our kids’ lives, both in the classroom and at home.

The online risks our kids face today begin in the earliest school years and evolve with each passing grade.

As we enter the holiday gift-giving season, many parents and guardians are likely considering the pros and cons of giving the children in their care and more access to the cybersphere. Below, I share a few important considerations about youth social-emotional development relative to internet use and social media, and some proven tips for effectively communicating both the risks of engaging online and ways we can work with our kids to keep them safer in the digital neighborhood.

The Early Years (K-5)

Kids are learning to use computers and now being exposed to digital content in the classroom as early as kindergarten. A digital shadow begins taking shape the very first time they sign into an account and begin to explore the Internet. Children in this age group should be introduced to the basic concepts of digital citizenship, Internet Safety, and what to do should they be contacted by a stranger or exposed to something that makes them uncomfortable.

Middle School

Most of the worst mistakes related to social networking are made in grades 6, 7, and 8. During this time of adolescence, young people are having fun and embracing the gift of technology, but all to frequently don’t make the best decisions in real life. These decisions often follow them into the online world. The mission at this level should be to educate kids on the issues around the permanence of information — things they share online don’t necessarily disappear when you click the delete button — and to encourage them to be the same person online as they are in the real world. Another key is teaching them about empathy and their ability to make a positive change in others’ lives by reporting cyberbullying and bullying in general.

High School

As students get ready to pursue jobs, apply to colleges, or join the military, it is an important time for parents and educators to continue pressing the importance of responsible social networking. An emphasis should be placed on making teens aware that careless social media behavior can carry serious consequences — one picture, video or comment can hurt their reputations and haunt them for years to come. Continue to talk to them about being the change their peers need and to be respectful of others online.

Tips for Teachers and Counselors

Regardless of the age, there are steps schools can take right now to ensure their students’ safety and happiness. For starters, counselors and teachers should talk about the issues in a forthright way and provide them the tools that truly empower them to “say something if they see something” — especially when it comes to their mental health. Schools should also dedicate as many resources as they can toward effectively training school personnel to identify signs of trouble among their students. In addition, counselors and educators can:

  • Teach students self-regulation, resilience and etiquette in their online communications.
  • Create lesson plans on social media usage, character education and diversity. Start early.
  • Make students aware that what they’re seeing is tailored, and often manipulated, by the person posting it – especially with celebrity feeds — so you only see what they want you to.
  • Realize social media is the platform, not the problem; the problem is in how we use it. Rather than focusing on the very latest app, recognize that, regardless of the medium, young people are facing challenges we know about and are well versed in: social pressures, making good choices, and creating healthy boundaries.

Tips for Parents

As early as pre-K, parents should encourage their children to report problems they see online and in real life while strengthening their relationships with school officials. Kids struggle with the thought of “ratting” someone out and don’t want to get caught up in others’ problems by stepping forward to report them. They need to feel assured that they can share information without repercussions and that the person who is taking those reports is listening and cares.

Parents can and should:

  • Develop a plan around social media regulation – i.e., setting time limits, putting it down at dinner table, turn-off time before bed.
  • Work with kids on developing a healthy, balanced view of what social media is and what can happen relatable to the real world.
  • Share your own stories of times when social media made you feel left out and how you coped with it. Also, talk about other kids who may feel hurt for not being included and teach your kids to understand their feelings.
  • Model the social media usage and behavior that you expect of your kids.

And a final tip for both parents and educators: Let kids know there’s no better day than today to clean up their social media accounts and commit to making better decisions about what they post from now on.

Melissa Straub is the founder of High Impact Youth Training Solutions, LLC, a specialized consulting company that provides educational training and guidance on issues directly affecting our youth, schools, and communities. She is also the founder and lead investigator for Without A Trace Investigations, LLC, which specializes in social media-related investigations, including cybercrime, cyberbullying, sexting, and other social networking issues.

To speak with an expert on anonymous reporting solutions to help youth report instances of cyberbullying, cyberstalking, and other abusive and potentially harmful behaviors online or IRL (In Real Life), call STOPit Solutions today.

10 Reasons Why You Should Support WeTip, the Crime Stopping, Anonymous Tip Service This Holiday Season

The holiday season is an emotional time for many of us, with to-do lists a mile long, and a cascade of different calls to action: Have a happy holiday! Give them them the gifts they’ll cherish! Make memories to last a lifetime! Give generously and help share peace and goodwill for all!

Yes, to all of these. As far as that last encouragement, when you’re considering your list of worthwhile causes to celebrate with a special gift, please keep WeTip at the top of that list.

WeTip: 47 Years of Unrivaled Service to Help Us Create Safer Communities

WeTip is one of the best resources in America for regular citizens to prevent and report crime. It is a toll-free, nationwide, 24/7/365 anonymous hotline and website committed to providing the most effective crime alerting system in the nation.

Once the caller has been assured anonymity, the operator takes them through a series of up to 65 questions, developed through the aid of law enforcement to elicit as much information as possible. Oftentimes the caller has more helpful information than they even realize. WeTip has become an essential service for crime-stoppers and a vital resource for law enforcement.

Founded in 1972 by a retired San Bernadino county sheriff who envisioned a better way for everyday citizens to report crimes, he understood the value of a service that was truly anonymous. Now 46 years later, boasting over 1,336,138 crimes reported, 16,391 arrests, a phenomenal 8,396 convictions, and NOT ONE informant ever revealed – the success and longevity of WeTip is proof that when good people are brave, motivated, and get involved, they can make a difference!

While completely independent from the police, WeTip has become an invaluable source of intelligence and information to local, regional, national, and even international law enforcement. They relay all tip information to every appropriate agency that may be able to help with a crime; whether that be the local area precinct detectives, Department of Child and Family Services, housing authorities, school administrators, corporations, animal protection, forest service, private agencies, or whatever the individual situation calls for. They don’t rest until the situation is being investigated from every angle, and taken seriously. This tremendously successful program has dramatically impacted unsolved crimes, and has significantly reduced crime incidents in communities and schools nationwide.

Here are 10 Reasons Why Your Donation to WeTip Matters.

    1. WeTip is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that has relied on donations from people like you to keep their hotline running for over 46 years–and the results are astounding. More than ONE MILLION crimes have been reported resulting in nearly 9,000 convictions — that’s how citizen-supported, citizen action works.But while WeTip is a nationwide service, they receive no federal funding. You can donate with confidence knowing that your funds are not being handled by a middle man, but all support goes directly into this secure, established resource that is protecting communities, children, the elderly, animals, and the environment.
    2. In 2007, WeTip updated its service to include taking anonymous tips online in addition to the telephone hotline. The online method of reporting has been extremely effective, but is an additional expense of equipment and utilities. Your donation will help cover those bills.
    3. Your donation directly impacts America’s youth: WeTip is combating bullying and terror on the front lines in our schools. This year alone, WeTip has received over 90 reports of bullying, and aided in the prevention of school attacks. When school districts partner with WeTip, it does more than just empower individuals with information to speak up – it is also a powerful deterrent. It causes someone to think twice before engaging in unacceptable conduct. In fact, schools that use WeTip find that the service discourages harmful or inappropriate behavior from happening in the first place. The deterrent factor resulted in a decrease in crime in one of WeTip’s school districts by an astounding 90%.
Tips Received To Date
  1. Animals cannot speak up when they are being neglected, hoarded or abused, so thankfully WeTip is ready to answer the call when a good samaritan blows the whistle on a situation where animals are being harmed. WeTip works closely with the appropriate rescue organizations to get the animals to safety and hold the abusers accountable. Animal lovers nationwide understand how important this work is, and every donation helps save these innocent lives.
  2. One of the areas that WeTip has been the most successful is the war on drugs. Approximately 75% of the tips the hotline receives are drug related. Over $340,000,000 in drugs and $6,875,000 in cash has been seized because of WeTip information, and they have intervened in countless threatening and dangerous situations.The numbers show the impressive impact the WeTip solution is having on breaking down the dangerous code of silence. The dramatic increases in the number of tips received each year demonstrates the change in culture and attitudes about reporting unsafe behaviors and situations. Donating to this important work directly affects communities in need, and innocent children who are exposed to this culture.
  3. The best technology for the best results: WeTip leverages mission-critical tech tools to deliver results and stay effective. WeTip’s success as a national resource depends on the ability to be available 24/7 – 356 days a year and to deliver on its promise of anonymity when citizens do report crime tips. For 47 years, WeTip has devoted a significant share of its resources to its tipline and reporting systems.In 2019, the number one operational need is an upgrade to their digital infrastructure.This upgrade will insure that individuals and communities continue to have access to this invaluable service while delivering on WeTip’s promise of anonymity for tipsters.

    ANONYMOUS: And this is important — WeTip is truly anonymous, not just “confidential”. What’s the difference? Confidential means that someone knows your name and promises not to tell, until they are subpoenaed. Anonymous means that nobody knows who you are and there is absolutely no way to find out. WeTip has no taping, tracing or caller ID. They have no way of knowing who the caller is.

  4. There are rewards for getting involved and doing the right thing. Every tipster is offered the opportunity to receive a reward up to $1000 (with some higher rewards offered in specific instances) for information leading to arrest and conviction. These rewards are paid through WeTip’s anonymous and unique reward payment system.This is the only program of its kind in the nation, and honors the fact that though many people will choose to remain anonymous for their own reasons, when people can and do come forward, they deserve recognition for taking positive action. In fact, the rewards program is extremely effective in encouraging otherwise hesitant folks to make that call, and the rewards — more than $1M and counting — are only made possible by donated funds.
  5. WeTip has specialized Native American Reservations Services, offering a safe, highly valued opportunity for members of these communities to protect themselves and others from devastating crime and victimization. Services include: education regarding Tribal security, school security, community health, and the dangers involved in drug and gang activity; domestic violence; drug endangered children; threats and actual violence; property destruction; elder abuse; truancy and underage drinking. WeTip is also utilized by visitors to reservation casinos who have information about illegal activities like fraud, robbery, burglary, malicious mischief, threats, violence and drug activity. Your donation will help WeTip provide brochures, stickers, flyers, posters, magnets and parking lot signs, all designed to maintain a visual presence of the hotline phone number.
  6. Knowledge is power. WeTip is only helping if people know to use it. Your donation to WeTip not only helps to keep their day-to-day operations possible, but it also helps with the communications, public relations and marketing efforts — all necessary to increase public awareness of the hotline and ensure that everyone who needs WeTip knows about WeTIp, and how to take safe, positive action against criminals and other threats to health and wellbeing.
  7. A donation to WeTip is a gift that keeps on giving all year round, especially if your gift is in memory of someone special.During this holiday season, often times those feelings of peace and goodwill are lost among the pressures of buying material presents.

This year, consider a gift that is guaranteed to make a difference now and into the future. And if you have a loved on that has been affected or lost because of unsolved crime and violence, a gift in their honor is a lasting tribute to their memory and a hopeful action taken in their name for a better future.

Please join us today and help us create safer communities across the US.

You can help and make a difference by donating, and by spreading awareness about this valuable service to friends and family. One call can make a difference and may save a life, solve a cold case, or prevent a crime from happening in the first place.

We live in an era where we no longer have the luxury of looking the other way, or expecting someone else to be responsible and do the right thing, so “If you see something, say something” by calling WeTip’s Hotline at 1-800-78-CRIME.

WeTip has been making a difference for 46 years, and with your help, will continue to grow and serve even more communities.

Make your donation online. For more information about the impact of citizen action through WeTip, visit the website.

Sharlee Jeter Explores How People Flourish Under Extraordinary Circumstances In Her New Book The Stuff and Through The Turn 2 Foundation

They called him names like “Captain Clutch” and “Mr. November.” Throughout an 18-year career with the New York Yankees, Derek Jeter had a legendary ability to persevere in high-pressure situations.

The trait apparently runs in the family. Jeter’s younger sister, Sharlee, shutout Hodgkin’s lymphoma while simultaneously balancing coursework as a college student in 2001. Her poise in facing this life-threatening battle inspired even the clutch-hitting shortstop. Now cancer-free, Sharlee is speaking out for the first time about her struggle and sharing the stories of others who managed to flourish in the face of extraordinary challenges in a new book called The Stuff.

Co-written with her friend Dr. Sampson Davis, a physician who’s seen it all while treating thousands of patients in the emergency room, the book profiles men and women who have what they call “the stuff” – an ability to surmount daunting obstacles and then thrive from the experience. In The Stuff, Davis and Jeter highlight 11 core elements that allow individuals not only to survive, but to flourish in the face of extraordinarily challenging circumstances. It’s an investigation in courage and resiliency, and shines a bright light on an ethos that surrounds her each day as president of the Turn 2 Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to promoting healthy lifestyle choices among youth.

“In the course of my life and work with the Turn 2 Foundation, I have encountered remarkable people whose ability to overcome seemingly impossible circumstances has inspired me,” she said. “We wrote The Stuff as a way to share their incredible stories, document our search for more real-life superheroes, and uncover the special qualities that drive individuals to do extraordinary things. My hope is to empower young people to dig deep and believe they can achieve anything.”

Launched in 1996, Derek’s rookie year, Turn 2 supports programs and activities that steer young people away from drugs and alcohol and toward positive behaviors. It’s a mission that lines up well with STOPit’s emphasis as a tool that empowers kids to take a stand against bullying and abusive behaviors so they can help create safer school communities. Sharlee serves as a member of STOPit’s Board of Directors.

“Derek and I talk to about this a lot; kids these days deal with a lot of pressures,” she said. “When we were growing up, you would race home and hope the bullies didn’t catch you, or maybe you didn’t want to go to school the next day to face them. But now the bullies can follow you right into your home through your phone and social media.”

Jeter’s Leaders

Turn 2’s signature initiative is Jeter’s Leaders, a leadership development program that provides young people with unique opportunities to learn more about themselves and their communities. Participants are expected to model positive behavior and deliver a message to their peers focused on staying in school, rejecting substance abuse and serving their communities.

The process for becoming a Leader is highly competitive. Turn 2 selects about 20 youths each year from a pool of hundreds of applicants living in the New York metro area or West Michigan, where Derek and Sharlee were raised. Applicants must maintain a 3.0 GPA or higher, furnish letters of recommendation and complete an essay on leadership before submitting to multiple rounds of interviews.

“We’re continuing to send them off to school and teaching them at a young age to give back, be a role model and to be kind,” Sharlee said. “We try to provide kids with mentors who believe in them and support them; positive role models to teach them skills so they are in a position to do the right thing. These role models also give our kids opportunities — access to career days, paid internship opportunities, and college tours.”

So far, the Leaders are seeing a 100% high school graduation rate and they are earning acceptances in excellent colleges. And thanks to the work of the Turn 2 Foundation and its partners, Jeter’s Leaders are eligible for scholarship opportunities to help make it possible for more students to reach their goals for a college education.

“In 21 years of the program, we’ve had 20 graduating classes of young people who are out there striving to stay positive and succeed. They’re using what they learned as Jeter’s Leaders, and are working to flip the negative narratives, including those that come through social media. By serving as leaders and remaining true to their positive values, these students are able to make a profound difference in their communities.”

And each morning when she wakes up, Sharlee puts her feet on the floor knowing that the mission of Turn 2 and her work on The Stuffis having an impact, “Our Jeter’s Leaders are incredibly smart kids,” she said. “If you ever meet them, you start to feel better about where society is headed these days.”

Learn More. Do More.

To learn more about how you can support the Turn 2 Foundation, visit www.turn2foundation.org.

More information on The Stuff can be found at https://thestuffmovement.com/.

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