More than 130 students, advanced peer counselors, and teachers attended for the 14th DB Forum held in the Diamond Bar High School gymnasium on October 24.
The full-day conference brought together a diverse group of 9th-12th grade students. The model event also hosted twelve South Hills High School student peer helpers and administrators.
Ten groups led by a student peer counselor facilitator and a support teacher participated in activities and follow-up discussion that began with a bubble gum blowing contest, and included stereotype bingo, campus map quest, over-the-line, and concluded with bullying skits and positive shout-outs.
Students shared and listened, bonded as teams, made new friends, became leaders, and created solutions to challenging issues on campus.
Throughout the day, DB Forum participants silently showed their agreement and support by raising one arm with a modified fist – known as the forum’s truth symbol. (The gesture was adopted from the Universal Sign for the letter T.)
Each participant was required to pledge their confidentiality to one another transforming the room into a safe zone.
Students discussed their points of view on issues including stereotypes, social cliques, and bullying. At times it wasuncomfortable and emotional. But as students spoke from the heart, there was real listening, real healing. By the end of the day, a true change had taken place.
“We had some really incredible sharing today,” said Event Coordinator Sandy Davis, a DBHS English teacher and Peer Counseling advisor. Davis has been named the 2012 District Teacher of the Year and a Los Angeles County Teacher of the Year.
She created the DB Forum event eight years ago.
Groups worked diligently to work out how to make their campus a kinder, more inclusive place. The event also gave students who might feel socially isolated a chance to connect with other kids on campus, she said.
“That’s what this is about – giving teens an opportunity to be a part of something special and feel that ‘I can make a difference’ and in some case, also to heal.” Davis said about the bi-annual event held in October and February.
”I felt that there was a need for a safe place for teens to be treated like young adults and empower them to create some of the solutions to the problems on their campus. And kids are awesome and so courageous! If you take the ceiling off of the low expectations we sometimes have of teens – they come up with the most creative, best solutions,” she said.
Near the end of the day, one person from every group took the stage to share out one idea they brainstormed as a solution to an issue.
“We shouldn’t be quick to judge and we should help them out,” said one student.
“When we go like this (with his raised fist in the air) it means truth –so let's stop saying it and do it,” another participant said.
“We’re going to show our truth symbol when we see our teammates around school to make sure they’re doing alright. And if they’re OK, they’ll do the truth symbol back,” one group member said.
“Our main issue is that not enough people at the school know about DB Forum and how much it means to a lot of people,” one girl said.
“Now that I’m here I realize how much of a valuable experience it is. Once you’re here and you learn about all these things and open up. You begin to realize it has such a significant meaning to your life,” said another student.
“We should reach out to others who may be lonely. And if someone is alone at lunch we can go up to them and make themfeel better,” another team member said.
Shout-outs gave participants the opportunity to publicly affirm their peers who were really brave or thoughtfully contributed to their group.
“The whole thing was an extremely valuable experience for me and probably everyone here,” one student said.
“They really shared some things that were really deep and I have a new perspective about teachers,” said another Brahma.
“I want to give a shout out to my group. We had a really fun group with great conversations and they all shared a lot. And thank you to our staff member who kept the conversation flowing,” said junior peer counselors Chelsea Lee and Jennifer Blas.
“You listened every time someone spoke and asked good questions in return. I can bet that among your friends you are probably an awesome friend,” a support teacher commented to the group.
“To the people that I got to meet today and also the great peer counselors - I really liked it because I got to talk topeople, and talking to people is great!” said one freshman participant.
“I’ve attended the DB Forum five times and this has definitely been my best experience,” said senior Christian Alvarez, a first-time peer counselor facilitator.
“One of the things you talked about today is how much teens need to be connected. I hope for all of you that you did personally connect today and that you stay connected,” Davis said.
She reminded students that the Peer Counseling room #242 is always open during lunch.
“I passionately believe that you all can make a difference on our campus. You can be the leaders we need out there. When someone is not feeling connected you can come in and hang out, talk to a peer counselor, or if you’re worried about someone, bring them in so they feel connected,” Davis said.
--Walnut Valley Unified School District