Students Talk Anti-Bullying at Gaga Summits

Students shared difficult personal experiences during two youth summits planned in conjunction with the launch of Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation on Wednesday.

The little monsters—as Lady Gaga’s fans are affectionately described—hailed from nearby colleges and public schools in the Boston and Cambridge area. They were invited to attend the event by Lady Gaga, Oprah, and the California Endowment—a health organization and early partner of the Born This Way Foundation.

The students participated in a summit hosted by the Graduate School of Education called “Preventing Bullying, Creating Caring Communities.”

They were encouraged to reflect on instances in which they acted as bullies or were the victims of bullying.

Lady Gaga made an unexpected appearance at the summit, where she stressed the importance of empowering students to make their communities safer and more accepting of difference.

Massachusetts Secretary of Education Paul Reville, Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino, and Cambridge Public School Superintendent Jeffrey M. Young attended the event and addressed the panel.

At a summit entitled, “Digital Advocacy Boot Camp,” students spent two hours discussing ways to share their stories and raise awareness by using popular sites such as Facebook and Twitter.President and CEO of the California Endowment, Robert K. Ross, first met with Lady Gaga and her mother about a year ago to discuss the burgeoning Born This Way Foundation.

“They were planning the foundation and they came to see us,” Ross said. “We bonded because the issues of youth voice and youth empowerment are critical to the future. Tomorrow is too late. Young people need to be leaders now.”

Ross said he believes that Lady Gaga’s support will help publicize their shared goals.

“Clearly she has a global brand and we wanted our young voices to be plugged into that powerful machine,” Ross said.

Many of the students that attended said that they felt the experience was meaningful and useful.

“I’m inspired to go back to my community,” said Christopher S. Covington, one of the student participants. “It recharged my soul into doing community work.”

Other attendees echoed his sentiments.“I thought it was genuine. The panelists were coming from different perspectives,” said Mark Tran, a youth community organizer for Building Healthy Communities in California.

A representative of Blue State Digital, a firm which advised the Born This Way Foundation, emphasized that the issues are often best communicated through storytelling.

During her launch, Lady Gaga stressed that it was up to the youth to make a difference. Teachers and adults can be helpful, but their efforts will not be as powerful as those spearheaded by students, she said.

—Staff writer Elizabeth S. Auritt can be reached at eauritt@college.harvard.edu.

—Staff writer Laya Anasu can be reached at layaanasu@college.harvard.edu.

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