Aajaylah Shows How Empowered Students Can Cultivate Kindness

It’s Kids Day at the 2020 X Games, and the air is filled with both the chill of winter and anticipation. Students from the Bear Valley International School in Denver, Colorado are stepping off the bus and onto the snowy field. They’re excited to meet some of the athletes competing at the event and talk about bullying prevention, both in and outside of sports.

The students at Bear Valley are part of a group of over 80,000 individuals that have been a part of the Shred Hate program, a bullying prevention initiative created by No Bully, ESPN, MLB, and the X Games. Through it, we help to define and support a positive social culture for the school, as well as training their staff to prevent and identify bullying incidents. To date, schools that have implemented the program have seen a 90% reduction in bullying thanks to the support of both students and staff.

An Upstander to Bullying

All of these accomplishments are already impressive, making a significant impact in communities across the country. There are some students, however, that take this mission for positive social change even farther. They are our Shred Hate Upstanders, role models who actively nurture support for their friends and their school.

Our first Upstander of 2020 is Aajaylah House, an 8th grader who joined Bear Valley just this year. She’s attending Kids Day with her fellow students, and it’s clear to see that she is already supporting the school’s social vision in the short time she has been there.

Aajaylah has been helping to make her school more welcoming and supportive to all students. From providing support to 6th graders at lunch to volunteering to help school athletic teams, she is a great example of the school’s Yetis Accept and Respect model in action.

The Yetis Accept and Respect model is the core of Bear Valley’s new social vision, made with the help of the Shred Hate program. “We wanted to focus on a positive culture,” says Gloria Montoya, the school’s 7th and 8th Grade Dean and Restorative Culture Team Leader. “We’re teaching kids how to be advocates for each other in a positive way. It’s why we made Yetis Accept and Respect.”

And the program is working. Gloria says, “We’ve seen a lot of positive change, a lot of students connecting and being more aware [of bullying]. They’re showing more compassion, and Shred Hate helped promote these visions for Yetis Accept and Respect.”

Such change can be attributed to students such as Aajaylah, who believe in the program and the need for a strong sense of community.

Making a Difference

When she first joined Bear Valley International, she noticed “verbal, mostly verbal” bullying throughout the school. Now, however, Aajaylah says Shred Hate and Yetis Accept and Respect “helps make school a safer place. I think it’s cool.”

Aajaylah’s and her classmates’ kindness is seen even at Kids Day. It’s clear that their sense of community is genuine, and they hope to be an example not only to Bear Valley but to all schools across the country.

Gloria agrees. “The Shred Hate program is a great program, especially for inner-city kids. It teaches them to be kind and respect each other,” she says. “To advocate for each other can be hard right now with all of the negativity and differences of opinions. It helps them to advocate in a respectful way, and that defending each other in itself is ok.”

Advocacy for others is something that any school can use and learn. And the Bear Valley International School continues to show that empowering students with this knowledge helps not only them but their community at large.

As Kids Day comes to a close and the students begin to pack up, we aked Aajaylah what some good advice for other students would be. Her answer paralleled the idea of equal empowerment and advocacy well. “If you are being bullied, don’t ever stop being yourself. And if you are a bully, stop right now. At the end of the day, we are ALL human.”

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