On November 4, I was part of a very special day in Iowa.
It was Governor Branstad's Bullying Prevention Summit in Des Moines. This was the second year for the event and I was happy to be asked to be part of it.
To make it even more special, I spent it with five of the most amazing young people I have ever met.
Anthony Howland, Christina Wagner, Danielle Reyes, Hayley Reardon, and Cole Norton made an impression on me that I will never forget.
We were all part of the last event in the afternoon of the Summit. It was called Students Can Make A Difference.
After Christina and Hayley both shared heartfelt stories, inspiring words, and beautiful music, Anthony, Cole, and Danielle joined them on stage for a panel discussion about what role we can all play in putting a stop to bullying and bringing good to our schools, young people, and to the world.
They were all so amazing and left an impression on every single person in the room that day. Their bravery, determination, and voice are qualities we hope to instill in all of our young people we work with every day.
And these qualities are ones that all young people can and do have.
As I worked with them during the practice the night before, I listened to their stories. I asked questions but mainly I listened. I watched them interact with one another. By the end of our time together that night, I knew they were ready to open themselves up the next day.
They were there to share the stories that they all had which related to bullying, but they were also just young people who enjoyed becoming friends with the ones they met that night.
The next morning we sat together through the program. Their parents sat with us too. It was really nice hearing them talk about how proud they were of their children.
You just have to listen to Hayley and check out her website http://www.hayleyreardon.com/
She is simply amazing....I love the voice and message that Hayley shares.
We ended with Christina. I love the message she left us with. Her message was simple, yet so very powerful. She said,
"We are encouraging you. We challenge you to make that change. Go back and take back the smallest thing that you learned today....something to make a difference.
We are encouraging you....now go encourage others. If you all just encourage one person to make a difference, we just made the biggest change."
That was a message from all of them....They all felt that way. They were there to empower all of the young people around them in that room to go out to make a difference.
As I spoke to Hayley's dad and my friend Tom Lapping, I stepped back and watched Hayley and Cole talking. They were exchanging phone numbers and making plans to stay in touch. They had inspired each other and knew that together they could continue to make a difference.
I even made plans with Hayley and Cole by asking them to come help me with a presentation in Boston next summer. They were both thrilled and definitely wanted to be involved.
As I said, to be part of this day was such a honor. Almost 1500 students, educators, parents, and others from Iowa came together to discuss how we can put an end to bullying and lift up the importance and voice of every young person.
And to meet these five young people made a difference to me....one that I will never forget.
You can find the video segment from EduVision on the Iowa Department of Education website.