ASU freshman addresses bullying with the Be ONE Project

Social work freshman Tristan Peterson-Steinert helps combat bullying by bringing programs to middle schools.

Bullying is a familiar concept to ASU students and it's a national problem that’s been discussed in everything from Disney movies to documentaries.

However, social work freshman Tristan Peterson-Steinert said he hopes to more specifically address this issue through a program he calls the Be Open to New Experiences (Be ONE) Project.

The Be ONE Project focuses on bullying in middle school by bringing high school students to lead a day-long program that includes games and discussion.

Peterson-Steinert said he decided to focus on middle school because of his own experiences and because he felt that most programs addressed bullying in high school, oftentimes when it's too late.

He said felt that middle school was when bullying becomes more common.

“First, (because of) the access to cellphones and social media and different ways to communicate for the first time," he said. "But also I think at that age kids are really vulnerable and really mean, because of that."

Matthew Kaplan, who is now at Duke University, founded the program after his brother was bullied, which he said made him feel responsible to help him.

“I realized then that I, as his older brother, as someone who had gone through and experienced middle school and really understood the issue, was well poised to make a difference,” he said.

Peterson-Steinert joined soon after the project.

“Tristan was one of my earliest volunteers,” Kaplan said. “Over the years, he’s really emerged as not only deeply invested and passionate about the cause, but sort of helped shape and refine the mission, the program and all the work that we do at Be ONE.”

The program they take into schools is split into two parts, Peterson-Steinert said.

“The first half is interactive games and activities, just things to get them going,” Peterson-Steinert said. “The second part focuses more on helping them see as a group that they’re really not as different and they think they are and that they’re all going through similar things.”

Since the beginning of the program, the roles both Kaplan and Peterson-Steinert currently hold have changed. The program has now touched the lives of over 4,000 kids in four different states.

Peterson-Steinert now helps train high school students and said he hopes to hand off the program soon, now that Kaplan is at Duke and he’s at ASU.

He said he really wants the kids to think about what kind of person they’re going to be.

“Do they want to be that person that’s going to lift the other people around them up or are they going to be that person that brings them down,” he said. “I think in that they learn that their actions and their words have greater effects than they think they do."


Reach the reporter at avcabral@asu.edu or follow @angeligagaa on Twitter.

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Related Links:

ASU anti-bullying organization You=Special seeks to build confidence in bullied students

Graduate students explore bullying prevention methods in research competition


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