Youth Speaker Beatboxes Against Bullying with Holmes Students
Question: What do cheerleading, dressing as a banana, playing a harmonica, and beatboxing (as various barnyard animals, no less!) have in common?
Answer: They are all fun and engaging ways that youth speaker Josh Drean speaks to students about defeating bullying in a positive way.
On Friday, May 5, youth speaker Josh Drean brought his “Defeat Bullying Positively” tour to Holmes Junior High, providing students with a fresh perspective on how to eliminate bullying in schools and why it is so important to do so. Drean has been featured on NBC Morning News and FOX News and has reached more than 100,000 students across the United States and Canada. He is a senior speaker for the Student Safety Advocacy Council (SSAC), and one of the primary curriculum developers for student anti-bullying instruction.
He is also hilariously entertaining, and his enthusiasm is totally contagious.
Holmes Principal Mr. Rob Bowers felt this rally, sponsored by the Holmes PTO, conveyed a very important message to the students. “As a community, we believe that speaking out against bullying is an important issue to address, particularly at the junior high age, where students can be impacted,” he said. “Students need to be aware that words and actions can have a significant impact on others. Josh is able to engage and entertain the students, while still conveying this important message.”
At 8:00am on a Friday morning, Drean managed to immediately grab the attention of 6th, 7th, and 8th grade students. Upbeat music played loudly as the students entered, and the first thing Drean did was grab a camera and record the students cheering and encouraging them to make some noise. He staged an “unselfie” where the students faced the wrong way while he took the picture. He incorporated all the current technology into his opening at lightning speed. He performed some awesome beatboxing that wowed the audience. And then, he did perhaps the most amazing thing of all – he started talking to them about bullying, respecting each other and their differences, and standing up for each other.
“A lot of anti-bullying programs and speakers focus on the negatives, like abuse and suicide,” Drean says. “Research shows that when we focus on the negatives, the results are negative. My program seeks to reinforce positive behaviors in students by inspiring them to choose to be kind and respectful.”
Drean’s instant connection to the students is something that really has to be seen firsthand to be truly understood. He asked for volunteers to dress up as a school mascot, and immediately so many hands shot up in the air he could hardly choose. He weaved in stories of both his successes and errors of his own mascot days, and explained the significance of representing yourself and your school respectfully. He easily convinced three students to dress up as an angry bird, a cat, and a banana – in front of the whole school – and they actually did, playing the roles he gave them perfectly.
“The purpose of a mascot is to stand as an ideal for people to rally behind, to represent something bigger than yourself,” Drean said. “Students learn to stand up and represent themselves and others in their social interactions.”
Drean focuses on developing empathy, resilience, and self-respect in students to help them turn bullying experiences into a positive learning opportunity. He told the story of his own brother, who was bullied relentlessly in high school because he joined the cheerleading team. Drean used the example to describe the change in his brother as the bullying got meaner, what Drean learned from the experience both about bullying and about himself, and what he did to ultimately support his brother in the best way possible. He also discussed the importance of being yourself both in person and in the digital world, not being a part of the pack when it’s important to stand out, and not being afraid to get an adult involved when needed.
In between his stories and so the message didn’t get lost, Drean was sure to incorporate humor, warmth, honesty, and of course, beatboxing into his presentation.
If engaging and entertaining the students while conveying a positive message is the goal, there is no doubt that Drean knocked it out of the park. He was surrounded by students after the event, who wanted to meet him, take photos with him, and simply thank him. It seems that no one wanted to leave once the event was over, and both students and Drean were totally energized by the experience.
“The students were extremely respectful and knew how to strike the perfect balance between fun and being responsible. I interviewed a few students afterwards and they were so encouraging and supportive in talking about their classmates,” Drean said. “What impressed me about Holmes Jr. High is that they are really tight knit. I usually get a strong vibe from the students about what the school culture is like, and I felt nothing but positives and love from the stage,” he said.