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Just about everyone knows someone who has been bullied, in ways big and small. Understandably, though, many victims are reluctant to speak about their experiences. We found some who aren't.
BY ANGELINA DEVINCENZO, East Lake High
When Daryl Washington first critiqued Kelsey Nohren’s runway walk, she assumed that it would simply improve her modeling career.
Instead, she says, he changed her life forever.
“Don’t let the jeans and the boots fool you,” he said at that first meeting after a modeling event in Orlando. “I’m an agent.”
Unassuming and down home on the outside, Washington is a well-connected modeling agent/manager, but also the founder of the Dream Believe Know It Foundation, an organization that provides curriculum and assembly program for schools to help build the self-esteem and confidence of teens and put an end to all types of bullying, including online.
When Nohren, currently a senior at Osceola High, first met Washington, he invited her to become a part of DBK. After attending her first conference with the foundation, Nohren says she was hooked. Washington selected her to become a junior mentor for DBK. The name refers to the dream that bullying will end, then believing in the dream and telling others so they can know it can come true.
Nohren was assigned two Florida girls to mentor: one a seventh-grader in Davie, and the other an eighth-grader in Orlando. Although she has never met them in person, she says they have become like sisters to her. “I text my girls every Wednesday, since it’s the middle of the week. It keeps them going,” says Nohren, “Every Sunday we have our weekly conference call.”
During those conference calls, Nohren often supplies quotations and asks them to share what the quotes mean to them, for instance this from Marilyn Monroe: “… life’s a beautiful thing and there’s so much to smile about.” Or this from Ayn Rand: “The question isn’t who is going to let me; it’s who is going to stop me.”
“I challenge them to use the quote to shape them, because, really, in middle school and high school, what you’re doing is figuring out who you are,” Nohren said.
The girls discuss any problems they may be having, or simply share funny stories. “We do the worst of the week, and then the best of the week. It’s better to end on a good note,” she said.
Nohren also has a mentor, as does everyone involved in DBK, because everyone needs someone to lean on now and then, she says. Nohren’s mentor, Joe Coscia, is a busy college student in North Carolina, but he manages to contact Kelsey three or four times a week, even if it is just to distract her from her homework.
As mentors for DBK, she says, they stand up against peer pressure. If they see someone being bullied in the hallway, they will speak up because it’s the right thing to do, she says.
“DBK has taught me to not care what anyone else thinks, because I know my worth,” Nohren says, the same lesson she imparts to the girls she mentors.
“I can’t explain how much fun it is, and how much it has changed me,” she says. “DBK has taught me to be able to just go up to anyone and talk to them. It has taught me confidence.
“I just wake up every morning and I’m like 'yeah … I’m pretty lucky,’ ” she says.
The DBK anti-bullying program currently involves mostly models and actors, but is open to everyone.
For more information, go to thedbkfoundation.org.