Sticks and stones don't just break bones. Words hurt for a lifetime.
That's an alternate take on the childhood cliché that Travis Brown, an anti-bullying coach based in the Indianapolis suburbs, has reworked and internalized.
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Brown, 37, founder of the Mojo Up anti-bullying program, is embarking on a national tour that takes him to Hampshire Monday, specifically to students at Wright Elementary School and Hampshire High School.
Not only will the motivational speaker address students, he will also give school officials a yearlong, anti-bullying program to implement.
"To really stop this bullying epidemic, it's going to take the village. To us, that means administrators have to do their part (and) teachers, counselors, staff have to do their part," Brown said. "Students have to do their role, and parents have to do their part. We call that the village. The biggest challenge today is most people only focus on the students doing their part."
Community Unit District 300 has made bullying prevention a major goal this school year.
The district is involved with the Safe School Ambassador Student Program, which recruits "socially influential" students who have the power to speak out against bullying and change the way their fellow students treat each other. It combats violence, cyberbullying, traditional bullying and other forms of mistreatment.
The district has piloted the program at three middle schools.
Brown's initiative, meanwhile, is part of the "Be the Difference: Speak Up Against Bullying" program with British boy band One Direction and the Office Depot Foundation. The program aims to educate students about anti-bullying so they turn schools into bully-free zones.
Brown, also known as Mr. Mojo, gives about 350 presentations a year in the United States and Canada. He said he picked Hampshire because he'd been the keynote speaker at the high school last year during a presentation on student leadership and anti-bullying tactics.
Brown says he was bullied as a child for coming from a lower-income, single-parent household and for being biracial.
The years of bulling he endured left him questioning whether he was good enough, and he doesn't want other people going through the same thing.
"I believe that really carries over into our adult life," Brown said. "We spend so much of our life trying to be good enough for people. The truth is, you are good enough."
Jeff Ehardt, Hampshire High School's associate principal, said Brown's talk will complement the school's Positive Behavior Interventions Program. In that program, a committee of teachers promotes positive behavior among students and comes up with related lessons in the classroom.
"At Hampshire High School, we take a proactive approach with our kids," Ehardt said. "I think it's a strong message that everybody, frankly, needs to listen to because I think it's broader than just schools. So we want to address it and make our kids aware of it and how to deal with it."