A group of Santa Ynez Valley Union High School students, sponsored by the Santa Ynez Valley Youth Coalition, attended a bullying prevention conference this month at Cuesta College in San Luis Obispo.
Titled “It Starts With Me” and presented by the Asset Development Network of San Luis Obispo, the Feb. 1 conference for high school students, administrators, teachers and parents from Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties sought to bring about positive change in their schools and communities.
Using the “40 Developmental Assets” model, the conference focused on helping young people become caring, responsible and healthy adults and make good choices through positive experiences and qualities.
Youth learned tools to communicate with adults about bullying and gained asset-based skills to help prevent bullying, and adults learned to identify the signs of bullying in young people and the asset-based tools to intervene.
All participants accepted the responsibility to change social norms and culture around bullying to make a difference in their community.
The Youth Coalition is sponsored by Santa Ynez Valley People Helping People, which provides staffing and administrative support for its programs and services.
Lindsey Drewes, PHP prevention specialist, said two quotes from the conference stuck in her mind — “Bullying isn’t just the mean things you do, it’s the nice things you never do” and “Bullies — don’t hate them, they are bleeding too.”
SYVUHS students received copies of the book “Thirteen Reasons Why” by Jay Asher and also met the author. The book describes how to better understand bullying, things to say and not say to bullied students, how to rescue and intervene in bullying and how to make positive changes in the school environment.
The students — Kayleb Bench, Marjory Diaz, Henry Fuertte, Sequoia Hatch, Nick Seaman, and Jared Wilkes — plan to make a video to share on their campus and with PHP.
PHP staff who attended will use information from the conference for the junior high life skills program at Los Olivos, Jonata Middle and Santa Ynez schools.
Also, information will be given to teachers for awareness and to be proactive in working with bullying prevention strategies with their students.
From a prevention perspective, bullying has risk and protective factors associated with it.
Family life, peer influence, academic performance and environmental characteristics can affect children. The goal is to minimize the risk factors in a child’s life and maximize the protective factors. Close parent and child relationships, open lines of communication, consistent discipline, positive and healthy friendships, school success and enthusiasm towards learning are among the important protective factors that help create strength and resiliency in a young life.
Finally, young people who are surrounded by a healthy environment with positive values and social support have a much stronger chance at resisting negative behaviors and living a healthier life.