Battle against bullying in Austin to get We Day boost
Community Against Bullying is working to become a bigger and more permanent part of Austin. That became evident this month when the Austin Public School District extended an invitation to CAB organizer Danielle Nesvold to attend the inaugural We Day conference in Minnesota in October.
"I'm really honored to be invited," Nesvold said. "We are here for the long haul, and I think the schools see that."
We Day Minnesota will be Oct. 8 at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. The conference is expected to bring together 20,000 students and educators from 500 schools across the state to celebrate the power of young people to change the world. There also will be activists, celebrities, performers and hometown heroes at the event.
We Day events are produced in Canada and the United Kingdom and were launched in the U.S. in Seattle this past spring. Speakers and performers have included Archbishop Desmond Tutu, former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, actress Mia Farrow, actor Martin Sheen, singer/actress Jennifer Hudson and others.
The one-day event is part of a larger program for participating schools in which students and staff return to their schools with ways to bring about change through new methods and free curricular materials.
"I'm constantly trying to figure out what I can bring back," Nesvold said, anticipating what she might learn at We Day Minnesota. "I'm kind of on my toes right now."
Nesvold and other concerned citizens started CAB in response to bullying in the Austin community, some involving Nesvold's own son. Since it was formed just more than two years ago, CAB has promoted positive events, hosted speakers and held fundraisers. The group helps the school district where they need it, and the schools have helped CAB pool and promote resources.
"They really value what we bring to the table," Nesvold said.
Also representing Austin schools at We Day will be Sheri Willrodt. She is the director of special services for Austin Public Schools. She oversees some special education as well as student support professionals, such as counselors and health staff. When the district was invited to We Day, Willrodt thought inviting CAB, and Nesvold, would be an obvious step.
"CAB has a common mission, as we do," Willrodt said. "They've just really promoted an awareness (about bullying). They really promote having a positive dialogue and impact."
A positive impact is just what Willrodt said she hopes We Day will have for her and Nesvold as well as Austin. She, too, is looking forward to what she can bring back with her to create a more positive atmosphere in Austin.
Despite their hopes, neither woman believes bullying can be eradicated for good. They take a more realistic approach.
"We'll probably never end what we're doing," Nesvold said. "There will always be somebody struggling."