Isabella County Youth Learn How to be Victimproof
“When you give bullies the worst of yourself, they usually end up getting the best of you too. Don’t do it. It’s not worth it.” This message is the driving force behind youth motivational speaker, Tom Thelen, whose anti-bullying message is told from a fresh perspective. The Youth Advisory Committee (YAC) of the Mt. Pleasant Area Community Foundation invited Tom to Isabella County earlier this month to spread his message to more than 2,700 students from Beal City Jr. and Sr. High Schools, West Intermediate, Mt. Pleasant High School, Sacred Heart Academy, and Shepherd Jr. and Sr. High Schools.
Students who attended the Victimproof program learned how to recognize bullying, when to stand up, when to walk away and talk to a trusted adult, practical steps for building self-esteem and developing resiliency, how to prevent bullying through peer leadership, and how to “be the change” within their own school. This message is even more important today because of the prevalence of bullying during after school hours in the form of cyber-bullying. Tom’s Victimproof program was created as a way to give students the tools to overcome bullying and change their school culture.
The Youth Advisory Committee (YAC) includes 7th-12th grade students from all schools in Isabella County, and serves as a pivotal agent in the empowerment of youth and in the development of young leaders. The YAC advises the Community Foundation's Board of Trustees on the awarding of grants from the Kellogg Youth Fund, which supports charitable projects that benefit the young people of Isabella County. In addition to their grant making, the YAC surveys Isabella County 8th and 10th graders every three years to help identify what they see as the greatest needs and problems facing youth in our community.
YAC Vice President, Erica Davis, said of bringing Tom to Isabella County, “The YAC aims to help youth in our community, and knowing that bullying is one of the biggest issues kids face, Tom’s message was exactly what we needed. He focused on how to be victimproof, instead of the usual ‘don’t be a bully’ message, which hopefully gave students a new perspective.”
Tom wrote Victimproof – The Student’s Guide to End Bullying after he was bullied and did not know how to break out of the cycle, until one teacher stepped in and made a difference in his life. He hopes to inspire students, teachers, community members, and parents to be that one person who can step in and make a difference for someone.