“Bullying is preventable… Having just one friend makes it less likely that a child will be bullied.” This was one of the key findings presented in Building Capacity to Reduce Bullying, a new report from the Institute of Medicine and the National Research Council. The report summarized a two-day workshop held this past spring.
Whitney Dockrey, a 22-year-old senior at Georgetown University, participated in the workshop as a youth panelist. Similar to the workshop finding, her experiences have taught her the importance of building and maintaining supportive relationships with others as a way to prevent and respond to bullying. Such relationships have been essential to her role as a mentor and motivational speaker in her community.
“I believe one of the most effective ways to combat bullying is through one-on-one mentorship and friendship. The most meaningful experience I have had is mentoring an incredible fifteen-year-old girl. She has struggled at times when others have tried to belittle her. I have been able to explain to her that only hurting people hurt people – and while that may not help the pain another person’s words or actions cause, it can help put their actions into perspective.”
In 8th grade, Whitney was inspired by a motivational speech given at a conference by Elizabeth Kinney (2004 Miss Oklahoma). Whitney recalls the former Miss Oklahoma speaking about her experience with being bullied and the support and mentorship she received from a peer.
“Elizabeth’s story taught me how important it is to stand up for others and even more importantly, build relationships to help others. I knew I wanted to be like Elizabeth and tell other youth that we must start treating each other with kindness, dignity, and respect, not tearing each other down. Through motivational speaking and workshops, I try to challenge youth to hold themselves to a higher standard of kindness towards one another.”
When Whitney had an experience with being bullied in 8th grade, she relied on her parents, siblings, and best friend for support and guidance. Specifically, they played an integral role in helping her to process and respond to the situation.
“I believe a strong support system is one of the most important things a person can have. I was very fortunate growing up because I have a wonderful family and best friend who provided a security net for me, regardless of what was going on at school. I have always been able to talk to my parents, sisters, and best friend about what I was experiencing, and they have always been able to provide a different perspective. When you have someone to help you process different situations and love you regardless of what you are experiencing, others’ opinions do not seem to matter as much.”
The values she learned from the relationships with her loved ones continue to guide her current bullying-related work and future plans. As a soon-to-be law student, Whitney hopes to apply these lessons in her future personal and professional experiences.
“Bullying is not something that just happens to youth during middle school. Unfortunately, bullying occurs during all stages of life: in high school, college, work, and even in families. This is why we must live intentional lives of love, kindness, and support to help one another. Everyone can make a difference. I hope to continue making a difference in the way I treat others, mentor youth, and someday facilitate a positive work environment where bullying and intimidation are not accepted.”