“You have to recognize that the person in front of you is just a human and no different than you and I. We all want the same things.”
160,000 U.S. students miss school each day due to fears of attack or intimidation by other students. To solve problems affecting youth, like bullying, the best place to start looking for answers is with young people themselves.
Though never bullied himself, former student Jeremiah Anthony felt the effects through friends and classmates who were being targeted at his school. He knew awareness and support were important, so he used social media networks and other digital channels to do just that when creating West High Bros.
In starting the digital effort, Anthony took a different approach than what he saw from anti-bullying campaigns and organizations of the past. “We don’t try to just help victims of bullying; we try to help bullies themselves as well.” Asked how, Anthony says, “we give them the validation, attention, and respect that they crave in a positive manner.”
After School spoke with Jeremiah Anthony as part of the “5 Minutes with a Teen Difference Maker” Interview Series. The series is hosted by After School in partnership with nonprofit Peace First and includes teens who have made an impact on the world, from anti-bullying to raising awareness for the homeless, which Anthony is also interested in working on.
From his experiences spreading positivity throughout his school with West High Bros, Anthony believes that the solution to bullying requires a unique approach, sharing that, “it takes a bit of madness to change the world.” After School shares this belief, and incorporates teens in the solution to cyberbullying through allowing one-click user-reporting and giving them the ability to curate their own networks.
Asked for what advice he’d give to peers looking to make a positive impact on the world, Anthony recommends to:
- Identify the problem you want to solve.
- Pull the resources you have together to solve the problem.
- Discover what makes you special — what makes you unique.
- Find ways to use this uniqueness to bring people together to solve the problem.
Anthony didn’t start West High Bros alone, and he recommends that others look for opportunities to join with others instead of trying to be the sole leader of a project. “Don’t be afraid to take the backseat,” Anthony said. “Every college and high school says ‘we make leaders,’’’ but Anthony disagrees. “Sometimes, you have to listen and realize that you aren’t going to be the pioneer in this yet.” This encouragement towards a more apprenticeship model and collaborative approach could lead to better-prepared changemakers.
Anthony is able to work with other changemakers through Peace First. “One thing that sets the Peace First Challenge apart is that it actively connects young changemakers with each other,” says Jeremiah. This helps youth meet others who also have aspirations to change the world and combine their efforts to make a greater difference.
Start the change you want to make today by visiting PeaceFirst.org to learn more about the Peace First Challenge and how they connect youth with others and opportunities.
More from Jeremiah Anthony:
- “A movement only starts with the second person. Being the second person is incredibly brave.”
- “If I don’t tackle homelessness during my lifetime, then nothing I’ve ever done will matter.”
- “It (Peace First) gives young people confidence that there are people out there who are willing to invest in them, and that’s very rare these days.”
- “(Peace First) gives (teens) mentorships and partnerships with people who are experienced in the field that the changemaker wants to go into and it also puts their money where their mouth is and gives them financial support.”
Read more from the 5 Minutes with a Teen Difference Maker Interview Series:
- Empowering Young Women: Interview with Jasmine Babers, Love Girls Magazine Founder
- Stopping Gun Violence and Running for Office: Interview with Mary-Pat Hector
- Education to Stop Transgender Injustice: Interview with Eli Erlick
- Empathy, Diversity Training for Young People: This Teen’s Mission to Create a Better Future
- Battling Bullying with Empathy: How One Teenager is Bringing Positivity to Middle School Students
- Making NC More Supportive for LGBTQ Youth: How It’s Happening with QueerNC