Hey EQ-ties! Welcome to the first Scenestar profile! Meet Alex, the founder of Project Believe in Me, a youth-led anti-bullying initiative that gives hope to survivors of bullying. Alex is a very inspiring youth that I have had the pleasure of working beside at many LGBTQ events. - Alex, Equalize
Most of us have heard it in some way, shape, or form: Youth are the future. Young people are the world of tomorrow. Though I’ve always heard these sayings being used positively, I can’t help but find them to be unintentionally oppressive. Young people are not the future; we’re not the world of tomorrow. We are the change-makers of today.
In middle school—especially sixth grade—bullying was rampant, and I was an easy target. I knew one person in the sea of faces that grew up together in elementary school. I wasn’t into the same music, clothes, or TV shows as nearly anyone else. My clothing, which I viewed as just clothes, was apparently too effeminate. In the eyes of bullies, they had struck gold.
After this went on for months upon months, a friend stood up and said I needed to tell someone. The same week I spoke up to a trusted teacher, who I will never forget, life began to get better. The bullies were dealt with, though I’m still not sure how. All I know is that the bullying stopped.
This October, I thought back to those days at Robert Gray Middle School. All I had to do was speak up, and life was better for me. But what about those too nervous to stand up for themselves? I had an idea one morning in the shower. I could write an open letter to current students at Robert Gray, urging them to stand up for themselves safely. Then another idea hit me. Why just me, and why just Robert Gray? This is how Project Believe in Me began.
Project Believe in Me is a completely youth-lead anti-bullying initiative. It’s a response to the recent increase in bully-related suicide. We accept open letters from survivors of bullying, and put them our website. These are meant to be moving, inspirational pieces, to end the feeling of loneliness and isolation that comes along with being bullied.
By late November 2011, I had a temporary website, Facebook page, and logo all set up and ready. I had a banner printed in January, and began face-to-face outreach at youth events. In late January, I met two (now) board members from Oregon Safe Schools & Communities Coalition (OSSCC) at a dance we were both tabling at. That same night, I found out about a grant opportunity through the City of Portland, and OSSCC agreed to be my organizational sponsor (basically, they agree to provide me with moral support and they also hold the funds of the grant).
On January 5, the management team of Set it Off’s lead singer, Cody Carson, gave me permission to post his letter (originally written for Alternative Press Magazine) on our website. In early March, one of our hugest installments to date took place. We received a letter (written specifically for us) from Hollywood Records artist, Marié Digby. Although she’s not the hugest star out there, it’s a huge deal to me, because Marié Digby’s music has helped me personally since 7th grade.
In mid-March, I received a call from the Youth Action Grants program. They called to say that I was granted $872 to put on an anti-bullying event this June! I am so honored to be among such a wonderful group of 10 other groups of young people being granted with funds from this program.
Everything has been happening so fast, it seems like. None of it has been an easy ride, though I must say that I’m glad to be so fortunate. Not all youth-lead initiatives have been greeted with such positivity.
However, it hasn’t been a completely bump-free ride. Being under the age of eighteen has presented itself a grueling challenge. I was denied a PFLAG/OSSCC Youth Action Grant due to my lack of an adult partner, and there have been countless emails sent to news outlets and other contacts that have gone unanswered, and I can’t help but wonder if my age is related to that. I’m currently running around trying to find a bank that will allow me to open a business account as a minor.
I would be lying if I said that being a young advocate is easy. I would be lying much more if I said that it wasn’t worth it. I am so grateful for the opportunities that life has presented me to make a difference.
So, Equalizers, I leave you with this: Stop waiting! We can complain about what’s wrong in the world, or we can all stand up together and do something about it. I encourage you to steal my life motto…I didn’t even come up with it myself. Have any questions about making a difference? You’re more than welcome to contact me. My information can be found on the Project Believe in Me website.
To learn more about Project Believe in Me, you can check out our website, like us on Facebook, and/or follow us on Twitter! From there, you can join our mailing list, read letters, and find out how you can submit your own!