At noon Friday, more than 50 bright, lime-green shirts flooded The College of Idaho’s outdoor Centennial Amphitheater as high school students gathered for the 2014 Caldwell Youth Forum. Coming together from four local schools, the diverse group was handpicked by teachers and counselors to attend the event based on strong leadership qualities. The young leaders spent their day on campus learning about the danger of The Bystander Effect—and how to fight against it.
The Bystander Effect refers to the psychological phenomenon that occurs when individuals do not help a victim because of the misconception that someone else will step in. By applying this idea to bullying, the Caldwell Youth Forum challenges students not only to stand up when they see someone being hurt, but also to focus on the preventative maintenance of building strong, safe, enjoyable communities.
The day of activities began with Giovanni Ortega, a theater/dance professor at Pomona College, leading the group in “Playfair,” an interactive use of games and activities geared toward building community. This opener helped the students quickly connect, and after lunch in Simplot Dining Hall, they broke into small groups to talk about how and when to intervene in situations where they see bullying.
In addition to the high school attendees, adult group leaders from across the city helped direct the day’s activities. School counselors, college representatives, mentors from The Mentoring Network and employees of the City of Caldwell and the local YMCA joined in the festivities.
Under the Caldwell Master Plan adopted in November 2011, The Caldwell Youth Forum is one of many events coordinated by the city and its partners to “make the City a better place for children to grow.” Scott Herdegen, a Vallivue High School counselor and group leader for the event, believes strongly in making an investment in local students.
“We put resources into victims, but we don’t put resources into bystanders,” Herdegen said. “They are the ones most likely to impact change because they are around it, witnessing it, and can intervene.”
Statistics show that 70.6 percent of teens have seen bullying occurring in their schools. Astonishingly, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports that bullying stops within 10 seconds 57 percent of the time when someone intervenes (http://nobullying.com/bullying-statistics-2014/).
John Scott, a Vallivue senior, was asked to come back for a second year to the event. Scott has plans to make his last year at Vallivue a memorable one.
“I was bullied all my life,” Scott said. “I know what it’s like and I want to make a difference in someone else’s life. I have people come up to me all the time and I try to help them with whatever is going on. I see the impact that our community can have, and I want to leave something that lasts.”
The Caldwell Youth Forum participants have excitement about their communities, knowledge to make their schools stronger and courage to fight against bullying. As the new school year hits its stride, opportunities abound for the students to spread the word about the bystander effect, and to come together as a community like never before.
Founded in 1891, The College of Idaho is the state’s oldest private liberal arts college. It has a century-old tradition of educating some of the most accomplished graduates in Idaho, including seven Rhodes Scholars, three Marshall Scholars, and another 12 Truman and Goldwater Scholars. The College is located on a beautiful campus in Caldwell, Idaho. Its distinctive PEAK curriculum challenges students to attain competencies in the four knowledge peaks of the humanities, natural sciences, social sciences and a professional field, enabling them to graduate with an academic major and three minors in four years. For more information on The College of Idaho, visit www.collegeofidaho.edu.