Sense of Belonging Trumps Being Bullied

Sense of belonging

InFocus Film Intensive

Finding a place to fit in and have a sense of belonging means being accepted despite your flaws or idiosyncrasies. When someone has had to go through life with their defenses up to ward off bullies, it may require a few extra ‘takes’ for people to connect the dots and come to understand who you are and what you’re about.


This youth-created video, The Boom HD, demonstrates how with a little practice and perhaps some do-overs, caring adults and positive, peer role models can help a young person who’s been bullied and ostracized throughout their short lives find a place where it’s ok to be who you are; flaws and all.

Thankfully this bullied youngster has found a refuge where acceptance is experienced and new friends who offer support and guidance have been made. Stepping Stones is a drop in center for teens located in Carbondale, CO where they offer a comforting level of understanding and patience for any and all teens who want to hang out. It may be safe to say that Stepping Stones has been a life saver for this particular film maker.

Stepping Stones

InFocus with Laura Vogel

Caring Adults

Laura Vogel Youth Film Perspective

This is not lost on the parents as they, too, have struggled with how to help their child have the resilience and courage to endure what has been an on-going issue for them. They expressed their heartfelt gratitude for the safe haven of Stepping Stones, as well as for Garfield County PREP, in providing an opportunity for their child to express; in a creative, positive, empowering outlet such as film, what it feels looks and sounds like to be bullied. The effect was not lost on the audience who was visibly moved by watching this story unfold.

The same kids who created the films have also found a creative outlet in the music class at Stepping Stones led by Mack Bailey, a professional musician and performer. Prior to the showing of this and the other two films, Beauty and Love, the film-makers entertained the audience with a few musical numbers. I knew the class was a success when after the first number The Boom HD creator leaned over to Mack, gave a fist bump and emphatically exclaimed, “That was fun!”

Belonging trumps being bullied. Boom!

Love. A Youth Perspective

What does it take for a student to succeed? Is it enough to be smart? To have educated, involved parents? Does it require involvement in enrichment or athletic opportunities? Is it defined by the number of friends you have; for real and virtually?

40 Developmental Assets

Search Institute

From a high level, research-based perspective, the Search Institute developed a framework of 40 Developmental Assets; twenty each internal and external, that identify a set of skills, experiences, relationships and behaviors that have been determined to help young people have success as they develop into contributing adults. The more you have, the better off you’ll be is how the theory works.

From a local perspective, one school district has adopted the “habits of a scholar” and defined them using the acronym ExPECT. This helps everyone remember the habits as Executive Skills, Perseverance, Enthusiasm, Compassion and Teamwork.

At an individual school level there is a mission to build EPIC learners. These are learners who are Empowered, Prepared, Invested and Connected.

From a youth perspective, however, we see in this video that a person needs resilience. They need to feel love and be loved. And they need to have trust.


Some youth in our valley have survived life situations that would be too much for many adults to handle. They don’t have the support of home, family or school. Yet, they have a positive outlook full of hope. They can still feel love in a world that has been cruel and hurtful.

Maybe that’s the key. For youth to succeed and become contributing adults, they need to have an internal resiliency, a sense of hope and the ability to feel love even when their experiences would jade them from trusting they could have such feelings of joy and wonder.

Can you teach love, hope, resiliency, or are they internal to our DNA?

Do the youth need to have a vision of who they are and what they want to become?

Does success hinder on their ability to conceptualize at this level?

In honor of this Martin Luther King Day, let us dream of a future full of resilient youth who hope to, one day succeed at achieving their dream. May we show them love. May we open our hearts, our minds and perhaps even our homes in order to foster a sense of belonging. For then, we may be able to ExPECT EPIC achievements.

What Is Beauty?

in focus logo

PREP recently sponsored a film project for youth to create a short video of their own making using their own voice. A public showing was held at the Launchpad in Carbondale, CO where the audience members were moved; some to tears, by the messages they heard from these young people.

One of the young videographers created a piece that asked a simple question. A simple question with no simple answer: What is beauty? Strong points are made regarding the power of perception, both negative and positive. How perception can lead to depression. Or confidence and self-assuredness. Judgments on how beauty is defined are questioned. Beauty as the media would define it is questioned. Does beauty come from within? From with-out?

These questions were in the forefront of my mind as I had the honor of visiting the Museum of Modern Art in New York City shortly after the film presentation. With the question, “What is beauty?” and my knowledge of Picasso’s paintings in mind, I headed straight for the Picasso sculpture exhibit. Certainly I would find answers here.

Picasso Woman




Pregnant Woman

Pregnant Woman

Picasso Woman with a Baby Carriage2

Woman With a Baby CarriagePicasso Woman with a Baby Carriage

Not unlike his paintings, Picasso’s sculptures – that must be considered beautiful as they were proudly displayed in a world renowned art museum! – had distorted and abstract features. And yet they caught people’s attention: they brought crowds of people in.

People stopped.

People studied.

People stared.

People listened to their tour guide explain the history, origin and meaning.

People appreciated.

People were moved.

Moved by beauty.

Moved by the beauty of distortion.

Moved by beauty in its abstract form.

Moved by beauty that does not fit the messages we see in the media.

Moved, hopefully, to return to their daily lives with a better definition of what beauty is.

Moved perhaps a little closer to the end of the rainbow.