WILMINGTON — Be a stander, not a bystander.
That was the message conveyed to students at Wilmington Middle School recently by motivational speaker and anti-bullying advocate Keenan West.
A graduate of Northwest High School in Cincinnati, West attended the University of Cincinnati and pursued a career in music.
As a recording artist, West wanted his voice heard to not only to raise awareness of the issue of bullying, but to also to celebrate the youths that have taken it upon themselves to find the courage to stand up against mean behavior.
Partnering with Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, West’s presentation incorporates music and dance to engage students in a powerful and thought-provoking motivational message geared to help students and empower them take ownership in bringing an end to bullying at their school and among their friends.
As part of his presentation, West invited students who were eager to volunteer and teachers who students put on the spot to volunteer to join him on stage.
Not exactly sure what to expect as they stood before an audience of their peers, volunteers were both visibly excited and uncomfortable when they discovered they would each take a turn at dancing.
Several volunteers danced with confidence, others felt awkward, and a couple chose not to dance at all.
While West kept the decision of whether to dance or not to dance light-hearted and nonthreatening, he used the situation an example to show how easy it is to stand strong as part of the crowd yet how difficult it can sometimes be to stand alone.
West used the exercise to further share while it may be uncomfortable stand up and even stand alone that 57 percent of the time when bullying takes place, either online or in person, when someone takes a stand against a bully, it takes approximately ten seconds to defuse the power and threat of bully’s actions.
West also discussed the other side of what bullying does to a person — the mental and emotional scarring that remains long after the bully is gone.
He encouraged students to not only speak out to prevent bullying but to also speak out should they ever find themselves feeling that mental and emotional scars are taking a personal toll.
He encouraged students who might find themselves in this situation to reach out to a person in authority who can offer support, guidance, and assistance — a parent, a teacher, a coach, or a pastor.
He talked about treating each other with respect, kindness, and compassion and the importance of having conversations likes these to make a difference in bringing bullying to an end.
Information for this article was provided by Diana Miller, who coordinates communications for several area schools.