Tyler Pascavis wants us to talk about bullying. Tyler, 18, is a native of Illinois, a lifetime member of the 4-H, and an anti-bullying advocate who believes that the only way we can put a stop to bullying is to bring it out in the open. At the school Tyler attended most of his life, Tyler found that the administration was not willing to admit there was a problem with bullying. A high-level school administrator once stated that bullying was not a problem at the school, so students who experienced bullying were left to suffer in silence. As someone who was bullied when he was young, and eventually someone who engaged in bullying himself, Tyler saw firsthand how staying silent on bullying could be as harmful as the bullying itself.
Last April, Tyler had the opportunity to travel to Washington, DC for the 4-H National Conference. There, more than 200 teens from across the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico, came together to address multiple issues that affect young people. Tyler was placed in a group whose focus was on bullying. Tyler found this experience to be transformational, and he returned home to Illinois with new resources, new friends, and a desire to start a conversation in his school on bullying.
When Tyler was required to write a senior synthesis paper to present to the school board of directors on any topic, Tyler chose to focus his on bullying, writing about why it was his school’s responsibility to address bullying, and making recommendations for specific actions the administration should take. He felt that “no matter who you are, you need to accept people for who they are, and you need to love them, even if it’s difficult, and even if they don’t hold the same views.”
In particular, Tyler wants there to be a stronger focus on not just victims of bullying, but the people who bully too. He believes that schools must work with students and teachers to build a community where everyone is accepted. “When someone bullies, it’s because he or she is looking for acceptance, and without that acceptance, he tries to find his worth in causing pain to others. We need to help these students also see they are loved.”
Some members of the board listened, some were upset, but overall Tyler feels that the presentation had a positive impact. He feels that people at his school are finally empowered to talk about bullying—“the most important thing is to get the students and teachers talking about it, because that’s how change will happen.”
Now Tyler is looking to the future and how he can be a positive role model to other youth who are might face bullying. As a freshman at Illinois State University, Tyler has received a Presidential Scholarship which includes a requirement that he complete community service hours in a local non-profit organization. Because of the important role 4-H played in his own life, Tyler will use his community service hour to volunteer as a youth leader in the local 4-H clubs and the 4-H after school program. “There are so many opportunities in 4-H, and there is always a place for a student to fit in, and find a place where he or she can belong.”
Learn more about what teens can do to help prevent bullying.