Matthew Kaplan, Tesseract School
We at LA Tutors are passionate about sparking the creative genius in students and would love to commend those outstanding students who have a made a difference in the lives of others in some innovative or technological fashion. In order to achieve this, we have established a scholarship (awarded monthly) for students who meet certain criteria. Here is our most recent winner.
When we were little, my brother, Josh, and I went on epic adventures, confined only by our imaginations and the walls of our backyard. Since I was older (by an entire year AND a half) and Josh was braver, I had the big ideas, and Josh carried them out.
Time moved on, and so did we – on to bigger ideas and bigger adventures and, eventually, to middle school. Our year and half age difference put us two grades apart. We stayed close, but developed different sets of friends. Then, in fifth grade, things changed for Josh. Kids he had once been friends with started bullying him. They sent him texts telling him he was stupid and worthless. Somehow, he believed them.
I knew the kids who were bullying my brother. They weren’t bad kids. Yet, inexplicably, once they were armed with cell phones and social media, they launched words at him that were far more harmful than sticks and stones. To Josh, their words were more like arrows, piercing right through him. Technology enabled these kids to be anonymous and removed from his reaction. I wanted somebody to make them understand the pain they were causing. By the time I finished eighth grade, I’d realized: the ‘somebody’ to do something would have to be me.
I created Be ONE: The Be “Open To New Experiences Project”, a community-building, peer-to-peer program for middle schoolers. It’s not enough to tell kids not to be bullies. Most kids won’t connect that you may be talking to them. Instead, I use games and guided discussions to foster empathy through shared experience. During the program, kids begin to see that they share the same struggles. They realize they are powerful, and that they can wield their power to build each other up, rather than tear each other down. I do a presentation, including slides of myself and of celebrities, then and now, to demonstrate the enormous amount of change that happens between the beginning of middle school and the end of high school. Be ONE provides a non-judgmental opportunity for kids conclude for themselves that they do not want to be the reason somebody else gives up before having a chance to reach their potential. Apologies are offered and accepted, friendships are repaired, bridges are built, and self-esteem grows.
Be ONE is changing middle school cultures in public, private and charter schools throughout Arizona. In just four years, more than 1,600 students have participated in Be ONE. I have taken Be ONE to schools in California and Virginia, the City of Phoenix Youth Ambassador program, local community groups, and libraries in Scottsdale and Glendale. Through speaking engagements and a PSA airing soon on The Disney Channel, I am reaching millions more. Someday, Be ONE will be in every Arizona middle school and The Be ONE Project will be a national non-profit organization based here in my home state. I may only be one person, but every person can Be ONE.
To learn more about The Be ONE Project, visit: