Disarming Love

The images are first chilling and then touching—a large gun, and then a long embrace.

The surveillance video released last weekend has been viewed hundreds of thousands of times. It shows a scene from May in which Keanon Lowe, a security guard and football coach at Parkrose High School, took a loaded shotgun from then-18-year-old Angel Granados-Diaz and then wrapped him in a hug.

Granados-Diaz planned to kill himself that day—at school rather than at home so that his mother would not find his body. Lowe, having heard about “suicidal statements” made by Granados-Diaz, showed up in the student’s classroom right before Granados-Diaz arrived, carrying the gun under a long coat. Granados-Diaz tried to fire the gun on himself, but it did not discharge.

“I saw the look in his face, look in his eyes, looked at the gun, realized it was a real gun, and then my instincts just took over,” Lowe said. “I lunged for the gun, put two hands on the gun.”

As the recently released video shows, Lowe removed the gun from Granados-Diaz and handed it off to another teacher nearby. Lowe then wrapped his arms around the student, who began to cry. For a few moments, Granados-Diaz struggled against the embrace of Lowe, but then returned it.

In those moments, said Lowe, they had a conversation.

“Obviously, he broke down and I just wanted to let him know that I was there for him,” Lowe said. “I told him I was there to save him—I was there for a reason and that this is a life worth living.”

Lowe’s response is a striking model of character in at least two way. First, he showed the courage to act without thought for his own safety. Concerned for the well-being of Granados-Diaz and the other students, Lowe deliberately put himself in harm’s way for their sake.

And then, rather than responding with force and censure—which would have been understandable given the degree of risk Lowe had just faced—Lowe extended compassion and care. Granados-Diaz would later receive legal penalties associated with weapons possession, but in this vulnerable moment, Lowe led with love.

Every teacher interacting with a student who is breaking the rules faces this same double crossroad. Will we have the courage to confront the misbehavior—to call it out, to disarm it—for the child’s sake and others’? And at the same time, will we have the compassion to see beyond disturbing conduct and embrace the student who acts out from a place of pain? To keep showing love even when a child tries to push us away?

Lowe would not have been a good security guard had he failed to act on the threat; it is not loving to ignore destructive behavior. At the same time, the life of Granados-Diaz might be radically different had Lowe not responded with powerful, inescapable kindness.

Students are watching the educators around them. They imitate the way we treat our colleagues—and also the way we respond to those who act out. May we model both courage and compassion as we engage the often-hurting students around us.



The Courage to Begin Small

It is only right that when we think of courage, we think of profound sacrifice, suffering, and voluntary risk on behalf of the innocent. The most common icons of courage are soldiers and martyrs, after all, and this is fitting given that soldiers and martyrs offer up not just their comfort or wealth, but their very lives. However, when teaching courage to high school students, it is fitting also that we should think of laughter, for the sound of laughter is a cracking whip that terrifies young men and women.

Several years ago, while rounding out two months of lectures on the saga of King David, I asked a class of seventh grade boys to choose whatever passage they liked from the story and write a short homily about it. I told them their homilies should be addressed to their fellows, encouraging and exhorting them to virtue in some area in which they were commonly tempted. In retrospect, the results of the assignment were not terribly surprising. Most of the boys chose the story of David and Goliath, which is arguably the most iconic depiction of courage in all of literature. The homilies they built from the account of David’s courage were not all that helpful, though, for they all concerned great and noble deeds. They exhorted one another to share the gospel with their travel soccer teams, to stand up to bullies, and to someday become missionaries and soldiers. While none of these exhortations struck me as improper, they did remind me of Aristotle’s claim that young people tend to “overdo everything.”

As a high school teacher, I do not yet need students with great courage—just the courage appropriate to overcome the thousand small temptations to cowardice and sloth which emerge over the course of the day. He who is faithful in little will be faithful in much, which means that students who want to someday risk their lives for the innocent should gain practice risking their egos and their pride today. I had asked my students to address an area of common temptation, and to be frank, the battlefield and mission field were simply too far off. My students were eager to exhort their fellows to courage in unusual situations, situations in which they rarely found themselves. At so young an age, courage rarely requires the shedding of blood. For most high school students, courage simply means being willing to be laughed at. “What your teachers need the most,” I told my students when handing back their work, “is your willingness to be embarrassed for following mundane, unglamorous rules.”

I know that teenagers are sometimes tempted by weighty sins and crimes, but such temptations are typically born of continual, habitual resignation to temptation in small matters, like breaking the dress code, cheating on tests, using cell phones during the school day, and disappearing at lunch. Of course, such “crimes” really are quite trivial, and so taking a stand against them often means adopting a mock-heroic quality that is easily ridiculed. On a battlefield, no honest soldier scorns his enemy for defending home and hearth. Two soldiers charging at one another have no cause to crack jokes at the other’s expense. The same is not true of two boys in the restroom, one of whom is using his cell phone against school rules, and the other of whom is saying, “Put it away. That’s not right.” Such opposition is ripe for sneering and jesting. Such opposition will earn the cracking whip of laughter.

Absolutely no one enjoys being laughed at, but the young hate it more than the elderly because, as Aristotle says in his Rhetoric, “owing to their love of honor they cannot bear being slighted, and are indignant if they imagine themselves unfairly treated,” which means the high school student who is courageous in small, daily temptations must endure a kind of suffering which he finds particularly loathsome and distasteful.

Similarly, no one enjoys a bee sting, especially those who are allergic to bee stings, and teenagers are allergic to the indignation which accompanies a slight. The teenager who sticks up for the rules is not likely to get kicked and jabbed but jeered and mocked. Most adults have clocked their own failures often enough that loving honor seems pure fantasy. At thirty-eight, I have said and done enough foolish, embarrassing things (and meditated sleeplessly about who has noticed) that “my honor” strikes me as fair game. It is not so with the young, Aristotle argues, for they think too highly not only of themselves, but of everyone, for they have “not yet witnessed many instances of wickedness.” What is more, the young “trust others readily, because they have not often been cheated,” which means that the mockery that common courage earns is, paradoxically, both predictable and surprising. By middle-age, it is only predictable.

Common courage ultimately matures into great courage, and yet it is dangerous to grasp at greatness too early, for it usually means an unwillingness to undertake the drudgery that attends practice. Mockery is adverse to the teenage temperament, so much so that the sixteen-year-old who becomes accustomed to being laughed at will be well-prepared, by the age of twenty-six, to be shot at.

“If the jeers of your fellows feel like knife blades,” I told my students, “you will be ready when they become actual knife blades.” Do not withhold examples of great courage from your students, but do not fail to appropriate those examples to common, mundane temptations to vice. If a student is willing to be laughed at for God and country (and school), that student will certainly be willing to die for God and country, as well.

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Joshua Gibbs teaches humanities at the Veritas School in Richmond, Virginia. He is the author of the book How to Be Unlucky: Reflections on the Pursuit of Virtue, and he blogs about education here.

Equipped: Beyond Backpacks and Barricades

Last week, Sandy Hook Promise—a nonprofit formed by parents of students killed in 2012 at Sandy Hook Elementary School—released a public service announcement called “Know the Signs.” The video went viral, and it was chilling.

It begins like any other back-to-school commercial: upbeat music, kids showing off their new stuff. But quickly things change. While students continue to speak cheerfully about their school supplies—“these scissors really come in handy in art class”—the footage tells another story: The girl holding scissors is hiding by a classroom door as gunshots and screams are heard in the background. A boy uses his new skateboard to break the window of a classroom and escape; a girl uses a sock as a tourniquet for a bleeding friend.

The presence of mind depicted by the children in the video is startlingly dissonant with the backdrop of chaos; the creators make the point that children shouldn’t have to think about dual uses for objects that should only represent learning. At the same time, the courage they display—the ability to be clear-headed in the face of terror—is striking, and it suggests a way educators can help equip their students.

Fears related to school shootings were widespread long before this video. Demand for bulletproof backpacks reportedly surged after the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, last February; they were a hot item recently during the back-to-school season. Architects are designing schools with curved hallways to minimize sight lines and with impact-resistant glass for windows facing hallways. Active shooter drills are as commonplace as fire drills, required by law in most places and conducted in about 96 percent of schools.

The concerns aren’t groundless. There were 25 school shootings last year, and The Washington Post estimates that more than 228,000 students have been exposed to gun violence during school hours since the Columbine High School shooting in 1999. That’s a small percentage of the tens of millions of American students, but the scenes of horror that emerge after a shooting are so disturbing that they motivate adults to take measures to protect students, should the unlikely become a tragic reality. It makes sense to prepare.

Students learn to barricade the door and sit quietly with an item in hand to use in self-defense. They are taught the “run, hide, fight” tactic—a series of words to guide them through choosing the best response. But what if there is an element of preparation we are overlooking, one not related to safety of the body but to steadiness of the self?

Emergencies call not only for planning but for courage. To some, the idea of teaching virtues like courage in the face of mass shootings might sound outdated, or like simplistic response to a horrifying situation. But we know instinctively that we aspire to more than self-preservation; we want to live bravely. We desire this even and especially on our scariest days.

The human longing to be courageous is as old as recorded history, and it is time-tested sources that often serve as the best reference points for this kind of teaching. There are numerous sources from which courage can be taught. Aristotle discusses courage in Nicomachean Ethics Book 3.6, explaining that courage is the mean between too much fear (cowardice) and too little (rashness); modern resources have been developed based on Aristotle’s ideas. The chivalric code understood courage as the willingness to undertake difficult tasks and accept sacrifices that may be required. History is full of examples of men and women who, in the face of danger, acted with selflessness and mettle.

Religious schools can draw on additional resources. In both the Christian and Jewish scriptures, the command “do not fear” is often repeated, many times followed with a reminder that God helps and is near to his people. Similarly, the Quran promotes bravery in the face of opposition and is full of examples of people who did so.

For students growing up in a post-Columbine world, courage is needed not only when they consider facing an active shooter, but when they notice signs of violence or instability in a classmate. Many observations of disturbing behaviors in the Parkland school shooter went unreported. Speaking up is its own kind of courage.

It is good for teachers to be supplied with what they might need should the unthinkable happen, as it is wise for students to practice responding to such an attack. At the same time, the harrowing circumstance of active shooter preparation can serve as an opportunity to both teach and model courage, a trait that will serve students for the rest of their lives, should they face this particular threat or not.

Born Ready

As high school seniors nationwide throw their mortarboards in celebration, some step into the future with a hazy sense of purpose, their majors and destinies “undeclared.” Others move forward with meticulously crafted blueprints, their college studies and career paths firmly plotted. And in some cases, those plans have been in the works since middle school or earlier.


We can hypothesize about the reasons we have started preparing children for careers sooner than in days past—parental jitters from the 2008 financial crisis, Common Core standards that emphasis career readiness, a desire to see students compete in the global marketplace. Regardless, the phenomenon of early career preparation is a reality, with children as young as elementary school learning about career options and touring universities. Many middle and high schools implement some form of the Career Cluster initiative, a program dedicated to sorting students into industry categories, from which they are guided into a career pathway.


Such direction can be a boon. Students develop ambition for careers of which they were previously ignorant. A professional focus can provide motivation to excel in school; rather than asking “why do I need to learn this?,” students have a clear reason always before them. They are well prepared to compete against others applying to similar college programs, because for many years, they have made choices—extracurricular activities, summer jobs, internships—that match their career goals.


At the same time, this early career prep might be contributing to the anxiety so many young people now face. John Thornton, a North Carolina youth pastor, wrote the following after a conversation about stress with middle and high school students:

The kids often used workplace lingo to describe their lives. One sixth-grader talked about a school assignment in which she had to develop a life plan that included her future career, which schools she should attend, and what she ought to major in at her chosen university. It was only later that I realized visualizing the future like this meant that every grade, every volunteer hour, every achievement or failure carried the weight of fulfilling that imagined future.

Joseph E. Davis, Research Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Virginia and Chair of the Picturing the Human Colloquy at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture, expressed similar concerns in a recent interview. He said:

It is the child’s job to “find their passion” and then “live up to their potential.” But while no particular direction is given, there is the clear expectation of worldly success.… “You choose your schtick but darn it, you better be pretty good at it!” Perhaps not surprisingly, levels of anxiety and depression are off the charts for young people.

Davis held that as part of the push for students to own a calling from a young age, they are saddled with the expectation that they will devote massive amounts of time to fulfilling it. In another interview, he mentioned a 20-year-old student who, after asking him to write a letter of recommendation, gave him her resume. Davis said:

It was four single-spaced pages of accomplishments that began about in seventh grade. It was just incredible; these were national achievements.… It was an extreme example of where each activity of your life is being conducted with an eye to it being an accomplishment that could be put down on paper.… In some ways, you document your greatness.

There is undeniable merit to living deliberately, to giving time to that which facilitates one’s long-term goals. At the same time, there can be a sense among some students that failing to do all of this—not figuring out what you’re going to be, not taking the “right” classes or participating in enough extracurriculars or winning impressive awards—is a recipe for disaster.


In a culture in which it’s hard to get away from the early push to choose and prepare for a career, how can teachers help counteract the anxiety that can accompany this push? Here are some ideas:


Tell the stories of great men and women who changed their minds.


It is common to start on one path and then choose another! Harrison Ford was a carpenter for fifteen years before he embraced acting as his calling. Walt Disney started out as a journalist and was fired for his lack of good ideas. Vera Wang was a figure skater prior to her career as a fashion designer. Whoopi Goldberg worked in a funeral parlor before she was an actress. Brandon Stanton, the creator of “Humans of New York,” was a bond trader before he became a professional photographer. Jonah Peretti, the founder of Buzzfeed, majored in environmental studies and taught computer science prior to his publishing career. Ellen Degeneres shucked oysters, waited tables, and sold vacuum cleaners before she turned to comedy. Andrea Bocelli was a defense lawyer before he was a world-famous singer. The list goes on and on. And the point is this: It is not only okay to change direction, it is common, and many of the people we respect do just that.


Tell your own stories or those of people you know.


It’s not just famous people who change course. Maybe you or someone you know has this story! It’s helpful for children and teenagers to hear about the journeys of those who changed their majors, discovered new passions, shifted gears professionally, and landed on their feet.


Encourage students to keep their minds open and to value what matters.


Even if a young person has a clear vision for their future, there’s a lot to be said for trying new things. Some even argue that a “sampling period” (and the freedom to quit activities that don’t sustain interest) is crucial to discovering true passions. It’s also important to remember that who we are as people—kind or selfish, truthful or dishonest, hard working or lazy—is far more important than what we do for a living.


Equipped with resources about various career opportunities—and the message that it’s okay to change direction—students can make decisions and plans with courage. Both the decided and the undecided will know that they are far more than the sum of their accomplishments, and that the future is a hopeful, open-ended place.

ND community rallies around student diagnosed with cancer

North Dakota’s Dickenson High School volleyball team has a message for senior setter Lauren Jorda: “Her battle is our battle” and “God is within her, she will not fail.”

Those words of encouragement were printed on teal t-shirts and presented to Jorda just a week after she revealed to her teammates that she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, and that’s just one of many ways the community has stepped in to help, The Dickinson Press reports.

“It was pretty tough, but we all just told her that we were going to be there for her no matter,” junior Taylor Nelson told the news site. “We knew it wasn’t going to be easy for her, so we were just there for her support. It took us all by surprise, but we knew we were going to help her through it.”

In the week between Jorda’s announcement and the Sept. 13 game against the Mandan Braves, her teammates created a fundraiser to sell the shirts online, raising thousands to help with medical expenses. Jorda was brought to tears when she learned about the effort in the locker room, then took to court to find the Braves also wearing the shirts. Nearly the entire student section also wore teal, the color representing ovarian cancer, the Press reports.

“It’s just been cool to see the t-shirts in places you wouldn’t even think of,” senior Madi Eckelberg said. “There’s just been a lot of support.”

In the weeks since, Jorda’s team has raised thousands through shirt sales, while others launched different fundraisers. The Dickinson High School National Honor Society held a bake sale, and classmate Addie Kuehl designed and sold bracelets with Psalm 46:5 to help pay for treatment and expenses.

Dickinson State University’s Nursing Student Association filled a gift basket with gift cards, gas cards and other goodies. Students at other area schools also bought shirts and donated cash before volleyball games.

Jorda has undergone seven surgeries so far to remove the cancer, but the future remains unknown, KXMD reports.

“Grateful is the one word I can come up with because it’s really making a difference in her fight,” Jorda’s father, Tom Jorda, told the Press. “We are basically quiet people, but for this to happen to this level and extent – teams throughout the state reaching out to her, people we don’t even know are reaching out to her because of sportsmanship. You can’t explain it; the nature of people and community is phenomenal.”

No words can express her gratitude, Jorda said.

“There’s really no words to put in to how it really feels,” she said. “I know Dickinson is a tight-knit community; we’re not a big, huge town. So everyone kind of knows everyone and when something happens like this, we just band together. It’s unreal.”

James Davison Hunter, founder of the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture, points to a community’s moral traditions as a critical element in or how people take action to help others.

Hunter wrote in “The Tragedy of Moral Education”:

What empathy we feel may help us understand someone else’s needs, and even feel the desire to help that person. But without embedded habits and moral traditions, empathy does not tell us what to do, nor when, nor how.

The nonprofit Action for Happiness offers resources for parents and educators to help youngsters develop traditions and habits centered on helping others, through kindness projects, volunteer work, activism and other means.

“Action for Happiness is a movement of people committed to building a happier and more caring society,” according to the website. “Members of the movement make a simple pledge: to try to create more happiness in the world around them. We provide ideas and resources to enable people to take action at home, at work or in their community.”

MI student’s fundraiser for service dog offers lessons on life, character

When Sand Lake, Michigan’s Ian Christensen was diagnosed with diabetes two years ago, his uncle with the same illness offered some advice.

“You can’t let the diabetes control you,” Ian’s uncle Aaron, who lost his eyesight and a kidney to diabetes in 1996, told the then 4 year old. “You have to control it.”

Christensen took the message to heart, and two years later he’s relying on those wise words to overcome the limitations of his condition. Because Christensen’s volatile blood-sugar levels means he’s prone to medical emergencies, officials in the Tri-County Area School District determined he could not ride the bus to school unattended, ABC News reports.

The situation, along with the boy’s pleas for a new dog, sparked an idea to send Christensen to school with an alert dog, which are trained to detect changes in blood sugar well in advance of complications.

“I mentioned it to Ian … and we said, ‘if we’re gonna get a dog, let’s get one that is trained,’” Ian’s mother, Katrina Christensen, told the television station.

The family researched alert dogs and spoke with another family in the school district raising money for an alert dog. The Christensens soon realized the animal would cost roughly $25,000, and broke the news to Ian that it could take several years before they could save up enough money.

Undeterred, Ian and his family started selling lemonade and vegetables from their garden to raise funds. They also sold pumpkins, a family tradition dating back decades. The youngster wasn’t shy about sharing his mission, and soon folks were dropping off $50 bills for his special gourds.

Katrina Christensen shared Ian’s story on Facebook, as well, and within days donations poured in. Supporters online encouraged the family to launch a fundraising page and they set a goal of $20,000.

Katrina told ABC News she “wasn’t prepared at all” for the overwhelming generosity.

“The first night we raised almost $2,000, and I said ‘I’ll be happy if it’s over $2,500 tomorrow.’ And when we woke up it was $15,000!” she said.

“You can’t even imagine what it feels like to have so many people show you so much support and love,” she said. “There’s one person who donated $1,000. I don’t know who this person is. I’ve never met this person. But someone felt it in their hearts to donate $1,000 to a boy they never met. How do you even fathom that?”

Ian’s campaign quickly raised more than enough money for an alert dog, and the experience convinced the youngster to pay it forward.

“Any money left over,” Katrina Christensen told ABC, “Ian plans to donate so that another child like him can get a dog or a pump or whatever it is to make diabetes easier because he knows how hard it is.”

Ian’s story contributes to the much broader habits and traditions in society that ultimately compel people to take action to help others.

James Davison Hunter, founder of the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture, pointed out in his book “The Tragedy of Moral Education in America”:

What empathy we feel may help us understand someone else’s needs, and even feel the desire to help that person. But without embedded habits and moral traditions, empathy does not tell us what to do, nor when, nor how.

The Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues examines how character education can ensure students are “Flourishing from the Margins” by developing a sense of purpose in young students, particularly those like Ian who struggle to fit into traditional schools.


Bullying, health issues inspire 6-year-old to spread kindness online

Illinois first-grader Ayden Cazares knows what it feels like to have a broken heart.

As a kindergartner at Ridge Elementary School in Plainfield, bullies targeted the boy by pulling down his pants, biting him and shoving him off a slide, his mother, Nelly Sainez, told the Plainfield Patch.

What the bullies likely did not know is Cazares was battling a congenital heart defect, for which he underwent surgery in August. The experience wasn’t easy, and while the now 6-year-old is recovering, he’s not sitting around sulking about his situation. Instead, he launched a Facebook page with his mother’s help to reach out to kids less fortunate than himself, to offer encouragement and help make their birthday wishes come true.

Sainez said the family came up with the idea last year when they decided to give away some of Ayden’s old toys to kids in need, and it’s since evolved into “adopting” a family for Christmas and daily video messages of support to kids who write in to the Facebook page, Aiden’s Fulfilling Your Birthday Wish.

“We found a single mom with two boys with autism and gave away toys and clothes,” Sainez said. “It just went from there.”

“He just loves making the videos,” she said.

Aiden said it’s rewarding to give presents to other kids on their birthdays, especially those who have similar stories of bullying.

“I want them to feel happy,” Cazares told CBS Chicago. “If they don’t feel happy, I don’t feel happy.”

The first-grader issued a challenge to his followers for Bullying Prevention Month in October to “be nice to someone and do something for them,” and his constant focus on others is gaining a lot of attention.

The New York-based See the Wish/Be-A-Friend Project highlighted the “6-year-old Upstander from Chicago” and collected encouraging letters from students across the country to offer support.

Through mid-October, the See the Wish campaign had collected nearly 1,000 personal letters from students commending Cazares for overcoming his life struggles and inspiring others to endure through kindness.

“You did so awesome with them, with the boys hurting you,” wrote Jaelen, a student from Texas. “You inspired me to ‘kill people with kindness.’ You are a good role model for people for all ages.”

Cazares’ experience highlights perhaps the most foundational concept of character education.

James Davison Hunter, founder of the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture, wrote in his book “The Death of Character”:

Implicit in the word character is a story. It is a story about living for a purpose that is greater than the self.

Parents and educators looking to inspire similar selfless kindness can find a variety of resources from The Great Kindness Challenge, an annual event put on by the nonprofit Kids for Peace.

The one-week event can be tailored to schools or families, and uses a checklist to help show youngsters what kindness really means. In 2018, more than 10 million students in nearly 20,000 schools carried out over 500 million acts of kindness in 103 countries during the last week in January.

“The Great Kindness Challenge provided an opportunity for our students to care for each other in ways that went above and beyond their normal interactions,” California elementary school principal Chad Lund said. “As a result, we noticed a real impact on the school’s culture with a decrease in bullying and an increase in compassion, unity and respect.”


Justice Against Bullying at School uses slime to teach students how to handle bullies

Students in Kalamazoo, Michigan are fighting bullying, one batch of slime at a time.

About a dozen students from Kalamazoo area schools recently met at the Community Center of New Village Park to mix up their favorite concoction, a monthly reward for good behavior and regular attendance at weekly Justice Against Bullying in Schools (JABS) meetings.

The JABS Slime Club is one of four themed JABS clubs in the area that now draw about 60 students to discussions about how to handle and defuse bullying. The effort – which has expanded to include clubs focused on gardening, dancing and sewing, as well – bloomed from a single club of eight students in 2016 launched by Gwendolyn Hooker, whose granddaughter Justyce was forced to switch schools because of relentless torment.

The regular meetings give students a venue to discuss run-ins with bullies, a game plan for how to react, and an opportunity to bond with their classmates over a shared interest, Second Wave reports.

JABS’ anti-bullying message takes the form of the acronym D.T.T.E.

According to Second Wave:

D: Defend yourself, which might mean covering up or running. T: Tell an adult in charge, such as a teacher or administrator. T: Tell another teacher or administrator, or a parent, grandparent or trusted friend. And E: Express yourself to let your feelings out. D.T.T.E.

“Nobody should violate you personally,” Hooker tells students. “No one should touch you without your permission and make you feel bad. If they do, it’s up to adults to intervene.”

Much of the group’s work centers on restorative justice practices, which aims to bring bullies and their victims together to repair damage caused and to increase the likelihood that offenders will not reoffend. Many kids who bully others, Hooker explains, are often suffering through their own problems at home. Students at the October slime making session concocted blue glittery goo, in honor of National Bullying Prevention Month.

Hooker told the education site she founded JABS because she couldn’t find anti-bullying groups to connect with when her granddaughter was under attack, but the club has since halted the girl’s harassment and brought together numerous community groups to rally around the cause.

“Hooker says that in its two short years, JABS has accrued partnerships from across the city, including KYDNET, the Anti-Bully Squad Partners of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Interfaith Neighborhood Homes Network, Northside Recovery and Resource Center, the Youth Ministry of First Congregationalist Church, Lightning Kicks Martial Arts, Gurlz of Color and the Northside Association for Community Development, just to name a few,” Second Wave reports.

“I had no idea JABS was going to turn into such a needed thing,” Hooker said. “You have to invest in the place you live, work and play. If everyone invested in where they lived, they would profit.”

James Davison Hunter, founder of the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture at the University of Virginia, points to the importance of addressing specifics of a community’s moral ecology to create personalized solutions to bullying that actually work.

“We can only care for the young in their particularity,” Hunter wrote in “The Content of Their Character,” an analysis of character education programs in a wide variety of schools. “If we are not attentive to and understanding of these contexts, we are not caring for real, live human beings, but rather abstractions that actually don’t exist at all.”

The federal website StopBullying.gov offers a wide variety of tools and information for parents, guardians, educators and others to push back against bullies, from laws and policies to training and research resources.

AL students mount campaign against child clothing manufacturer over conditions for garment workers

Students for Fair Labor at the University of Alabama believe garment workers in El Salvador are being exploited by apparel manufacturers, so they’re pressuring university officials to do something about it.

“Our overall goal is to make multinational companies accountable to the people that they exploit who work on university campuses, in our communities and in the overseas factories where collegiate apparel is produced,” the group’s leader, Amber Chan, told The Crimson White student newspaper.

Chan explained that the University of Alabama licenses its logo to a Miami, Florida-based company called Vive La Fete, which manufacturers children’s clothes at factories in El Salvador. The company doesn’t sell clothes at the school, but does sell clothes with the university logo online.

Students for Fair Labor contends women embroidery workers are treated poorly by Vive La Fete, and the group has demanded the company pay them $1.2 million in back pay, pension, vacation days, health benefits and allow the women to form a union. Students contend the women are grossly overworked and underpaid.

The group also pressured the Student Government Association to call on the University to put Vive La Fete “on notice” by reiterating SFL’s demands to the company, according to the news site.

SFL students delivered the letter from the student government to President Stuart Bell’s office in late September and promised campus activism would “escalate in various ways” if the University fails to act on the group’s demands, Chan said.

Convincing the University to end its licensing agreement with Vive La Fete is the SFL’s ultimate goal.

“We’re just trying to keep The University of Alabama accountable for the kinds of businesses that they deal with,” said junior SFL member Rivers Jackson. “And then also just seeing that human beings are treated equally and fairly, specifically workers, and make sure their human rights are met.”

University officials have not yet responded to the students’ requests, which follow a long line of similar activism on college campuses that dates back decades.

And regardless of whether folks agree with the effort, the tradition can have a significant impact on students because “it is through experience that students participate in moral community and practice moral action,” according to James Davison Hunter, founder of the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture.

In his book, “The Death of Character,” Hunter wrote, “Experience is always a precursor to the possession of character and practical wisdom.”

The Alpha Omega Academy, a Christian online academy, provides “Ways to Grow Student Involvement in Community Service” to help parents and educators get student engaged in volunteer and service work.

“Often volunteering is a reflection of a strong emotional connection to a cause that’s personally affected an individual,” the guide advises. “Find what your student is passionate about first; without a driving focus, his enthusiasm to help will quickly fade.”

“The deeper your student feels the need, the more likely he will act to better the world around him,” according to the site.

Michaela Weinstein was a freshman when she decided to take action.

The barrage of racist messages at California’s Albany High School – scrawled in hallways and on text books, along with attacks on social media – convinced her the only way to change the situation was through a cultural shift, led by students.

An Instagram post in March 2017 depicting the lynching of a black female student by the Ku Klux Klan served as the final straw, and Weinstein partnered with good friend Melia Oliver to create Speak, a social justice program focused on educating elementary students about empathy, racism, sexism and anti-Semitism, The Jewish News reports.

“The Friday the Instagram account was discovered, Melia and I had this really big conversation,” Weinstein said. “We realized that there was this need and we had a responsibility as citizens of our school and citizens of our world to make this change.”

The two recruited classmates to join the group and help lead discussions, then went to work designing a curriculum to cover a variety of topics, from bullying to LGBTQ discrimination, for students in grades three through five.

“Fourth- and fifth-graders are so influenceable,” Weinstein said. “They are really malleable, so you can give them information and they are willing to talk about it and they don’t have these walls built up yet.”

“We realized that we really needed a cultural shift, through education at a young age, to not tolerate hate. Obviously it’s not something that can be solved so quickly, but with something like Speak and other activist groups, hopefully some things like this can be helped.”

Speak held 38 presentations in fourth- and fifth-grade classrooms at three Albany elementary schools last year, and now has plans to spread the message to sixth-graders, as well, in 2018.

Weinstein, now a junior, recently won $36,000 to continue her work from the 2018 Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Awards, a national program that recognizes Jewish students who exemplify the values of their faith.

“At the end of the presentations we often have a closing circle and we ask what have you learned in the past hour, and they’ll sometimes say, ‘I want to make a difference like you’re making a difference,’” Weinstein told The Jewish News. “If a girl in her freshman year with her friend was able to create a program that can reach all these people, it shows we have the ability to make a difference.”

Students in Speak crafted the program to address the specific issues of racism and anti-Semitism gripping the high school, and educators and administrators who encouraged the program will undoubtedly benefit from the positive changes to school culture.

“We can only care for the young in their particularity,” researchers at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture wrote in “The Content of Their Character,” an analysis of character education in a wide variety of schools. “If we are not attentive to and understanding of these contexts, we are not caring for real, live human beings, but rather abstractions that actually don’t exist at all.”

Speak offers more information about the program, including its mission, presentations and team biographies at AHSStudentsSpeak.org.