By Erin Rook, PQ MonthlyLess than one month after the suicide death of LaGrande 15-year-old Jadin Bell, friends and family of the bullied gay youth have launched an organization dedicated to stopping bullying and harassment through education. Faces for Change was founded by Bud Hill and Heather Martin following Jadin's Feb. 3 death and is already up and running with a board of directors, website, and events coming soon.
The organization's mission statement:
Our mission is not to cast blame or judge, rather it is to provide education on the effects of our words and body language to others. We all strive for acceptance. When 'WHO WE ARE' is ridiculed or threatened, the internal pain is long lasting and sometimes insurmountable.PQ chatted with Hill about the burgeoning organization and how it will work to save kids like Jadin.
PQ: What is your role in Faces for Change?
Hill: My roll inÂ Faces for Change is co-founder and President PQ: When and why did you decide to start this organization?
Hill: I decided I hadÂ to carry on my nephewÂ Jadin Bell's voice the day after his attempt at suicide.Â I was contacted byÂ my co-founder, Heather Martin,Â who had this idea after an earlier suicide in town and had a difficult time with it.Â I met with her a few days after returning to La Grande and we have been going forward with it since then. PQ: You've said it will address bullying. Do you have any more specific plans, or is it still in development?
Hill: Our intention is to be able to assist school districts with funding in the area of education regarding bullying.Â Our intentions are to be able to provide education to everyone -- students, teachers, parents, and community members -- in all aspects of bullying.Â To include bystanders' rolls, definitions, effects, and possible outcomes of bullying. Â We would like to be able to provide literature that may help with the 'No Bullying Allowed' [policy], provide some counseling to those being bullied and those performing the bullying.Â The first few words of our mission statement says: "Our mission is not to cast blame or judge, rather to provide education" and this is truly our main focus.
PQ: The superintendent has expressed interested in collaborating. Any sense of what that might look like?
Hill: We are hoping to be able to work with Larry and all the other superintendents in the state and nation when we get there to focus on the needs ofÂ each district as we feelÂ they will all have different needs.
PQ: What kind of response have you received so far?
Hill: We have received many e-mails with a lot of wonderful thoughts and some very helpful contacts and website information.Â As you might imagine we are doing a lot of fact finding and research in the early stages.PQ: Will the organization address bullying motivated by anti-gay bias, or will it be more generally focused?
Hill:Â We will focus on all aspects of bullying as there are many of them.Â It just so happened my nephew Jadin was gay and that was theÂ reasonÂ for his bullying.Â His nameÂ is being used in the logo we have established so it is not forgotten, with the blessing of dad and mom, Joe and Lola, and the artist that painted the logo, Christine Benitez.Â A lot of this information will be published on our web page that we are hoping to have out by the end of the week.
PQ: What impact do you hope the Face for Change will have on youth in La Grande and beyond?
Hill: We hope to educate the youth as well as teachers and parents on what bullying is, the effects it can have on children and adults in our community for beginners, and hope to be able to expand to what ever states we are able to reach.Â That of course will depend on the core of theÂ foundation we establish and the attention to our main goals.Â I am very confident we have a great start with the people we have joining us.Â We intend to have a very diverse group in our core, including kids from the age of 13 with written consent from the parents as we feel they have an awful lot of ideas that will help with our cause.PQ: What do you think Jadin would say if he knew he was part of the inspiration for this effort?
Hill: I know he would be proud of our efforts.Â I know there is always something good that comes of something bad and I believe we are about to embark onto the good.Â I feel Jadin was telling me thanks when at his grave sight we let some balloons go in unison and they formed a heart as they floated away.PQ: Do you think bullying is worse now than it was when you were growing up? Why or why not?
Hill:Â I do feel bullying is worse than when I wasÂ growing up because we did not have the Internet, twitter, facebook to help egg people on.Â Cyber-bullying plays a huge part in today's bullying.
PQ: Will your organization address the attitudes of adults (which are invariably passed on to children)?
Hill: As stated earlier, our intentions are to EDUCATE, EDUCATE,EDUCATE.Â That being EDUCATE students, EDUCATEÂ teachers and EDUCATE parents/community.