After first meeting Gary and his son Aidan in New Orleans this past November we knew that they would be great additions to the Heroes project. Both father and son are heroes in their own right as you will see below. Together though, they are brilliant! Thanks for your contribution to the world Gary and Aidan McDaniel.
In Aidan’s Words:
I have grown up in a culture filled with bullying. Ever since I could talk I’ve been told stories about bullies and victims, by the media, by adults, by other students, and by witnessing it firsthand. I’ve also seen the good that people can do, and the positive effects of a healthy environment. What I do is try to help create more positive stories that can be told, and more heroes who can show others a different truth: heroic stories that can be told in place of the bullying and victim stories. I do this through my involvement with the “stand up for others” program, as well as my own “launching people into the friend zone” program.
“Stand up for others” is based on the idea that bystanders standing up to stop bullying can create an environment where bullying cannot thrive. Bullies aren’t looking for a big group of people to oppose them and when they are faced with such a group they will be less likely to hurt anyone.
“Launching people into the friend zone” is a practice that my friends and I employ. We take a new or socially struggling student and we place them into our group of friends. We sit with them at lunch, talk to them, joke around, etc. By doing this we provide them with a basis of positive relationship with which they can make more friends and become more socially comfortable.
These approaches, and all bullying prevention programs, should be based on the idea that bullying is not a child’s problem with an adult’s solution; it is everyone’s problem and needs to be everyone’s solution.
Aidan McDaniel, Freshman
Berkeley Springs High School
In Gary’s Words:
Working in a small, underfunded, rural county helps us to stay focused on what really matters – relationships. Everything we do here is grass roots because we can’t afford expensive programming, we don’t have much in the way of technology infrastructure, and there’s no one rich or famous to champion our cause. What we get done here, we get done with each other’s help.
When I saw the need for a bullying prevention program in our school system five years ago the first thing I did was start looking for allies. Our middle school counselor was the first ally I found and with the permission of a single administrator we started working with students one classroom at a time. Since then my list of partners has grown to include parents, teachers, community partners, national prevention experts, the international bullying prevention association, national programs like Embracing Digital Youth, Cable in the Classroom and Wiggeo, and most importantly: students.
There are students working in each of our schools, standing up for others, training other students in positive social norms, making posters, educating parents, taking the initiative to build the kind of school they want to attend. These young people are my heroes. These young people are not just our future: they are our present.
Morgan County Schools, West Virginia
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