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By:  Connor Cummiskey

Six Ripon College students had the honor of speaking at the annual Youth Summit of the National Association of Students Against Violence Everywhere (SAVE) March 12. Representing Ripon at the event were: Avery Herbon ’18, Lauren Hince ’18, Maddie VandenHouten ’17, Garrison Anderson ’16, Allison Macknick ’17 and Andrea Schulner ’16.

The Speakers Bureau students spoke on a variety of topics, including: #spreadthekindness, concepts of identity, social class in highschool, and cyberbullying.

“This same group last semester provided bullying prevention training to all students at Ripon Middle School and also were invited to present at a private grade school in the Green Bay area,” says Professor of Communication Jody Roy. “Some of their work at the SAVE Youth Summit (involved) talking about a new approach to bullying prevention that they took in those presentations, using positive (#spreadkindness) rather than negative (bullying is bad) messaging to approach this issue.”

The students spoke in front of an estimated audience of 400-500 people, including students from elementary age to college age and their adult advisors during their presentation as a group. Each of the breakout sessions had an estimated audience of 40-75 people.

“After seeing how effective our message was at schools in Wisconsin, I could not wait to take the #spreadkindness campaign to a national conference,” says VandenHouten. “This experience allowed us to reach a much longer audience with the hope that they will bring our ideas back to their own schools. The #spreadkindness is a special campaign because one person cannot stop bullying, but everyone can work harder to be nice to one another.”

The Ripon Speakers Bureau has a history working with SAVE, both directly and indirectly, going all the way back to the founding members of the Bureau. However, there are other reasons the organization wanted college students to present.

“The National Youth Advisory Board, a group of high school students from across the country, wanted to be sure to have youthful speakers with a great violence prevention message. They know that youths will often listen (to) other youths better than they do adults,” explains Executive Director of SAVE Carleen Wray.

According to a press release from SAVE, their mission to stop violence among youths is more important than ever.

“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports it as the third leading cause of death for people between the ages of 15 and 24 in the U.S. Additionally, fatalities resulting from youth violence are only one part of the problem. Students face issues with bullying, dating violence, mental health, racism, social media safety, self-harm, teen safe driving, substance abuse and more,” states the release. “SAVE is determined to change this through engaging youths in crime prevention, conflict management and meaningful service activities.”

“The National SAVE Summit provides a unique opportunity for student leaders to share successful safety and violence prevention tactics with their peers, allowing them to return to their chapters and implement new practical solutions,” Wray says in the release. “Through interactive activities, powerful presentations and nationally acclaimed speakers, the conference helps train attendees in effective ways to create an overall safer environment.”