BY EMELINA MINERO
Dare2Care is an Ohio-based non-profit that focuses on youth leadership development, fostering discussion around identity and bringing awareness to LGBT bullying.
On April 25, at their fashion and performing arts gala, 50 Years of Change, they officially launched their anti-bullying PSA. We got to chat with the co-founder and vice president of Dare2Care, Liz O’Donnell, about her work with Dare2Care and what they hope to achieve with their anti-bullying PSA.
What inspired you to co-found Dare2Care?
Most critically, the incidence of LGBT-targeted bullying, which is known to be five to six times greater if students are perceived to be, or are actually, LGBT versus straight, and the attempted and completed suicide rate in our youth. Cleveland in particular had several distressing stories of young people taking their own lives in 2010.
How does Dare2Care impact the student scholars who go through your leadership program? What excitements and concerns do they share with you about the work they do with Dare2Care?
Dare2Care has an enormous impact on our student scholars. First and foremost, we are saying to them, “You count. Your ideas count. Your story counts, and your passion will be supported.” Their participation in the leadership training at the Global Youth Leadership Institute is such a mind expander. Their excitement in learning about the complex and multifaceted aspects of identity is infectious. We wanted to focus on all aspects of identity and give them a language to speak for their generation and to their experience. It has been a joy to watch the changes in them.
The biggest challenge they have shared is in their fear of failing to implement a big idea. We have to continually remind them that we don’t expect big ideas from them. We expect challenging conversations. These are things we all have everyday. We believe it is at this level that we have had an enormous impact.
Our motto is incremental is monumental you don’t have to make a feature film just a tiny vignette!
Have you heard from students or LGBT youth who have been personally impacted by Dare2Care’s work?
Absolutely! It began right at our first gala with one of our poetry winners Haley, whose poem “I was Your Daughter” won second place. When I called her to ask if she would be willing to read her poem at the event and to confirm she had parental consent, she told me that her parents had not read her poem. It was a beautiful piece, but I was aware that it might be hard for her to share with them. However, she called me back, told me that she had given it to them to read and that they were both going to accept our invitation to attend with her to receive her award. Her poem began a new and scary conversation with her family. I believe we had an important part in that and this was our mission manifested. Haley read that poem and a year later openly began her transition to Spencer with full disclosure and a measure of authenticity that I believe would have taken much longer without our support in giving Spencer a voice.
What went on behind-the-scenes in making Dare2Care’s anti-bullying PSA?
What was amazing about making the video was the response to the casting. No one gets paid by Dare2Care, from our performers to our directors. We have no money. We only have passion. Our fabulous director Marcy Ronen put out a casting call and had 80 students respond. Lakewood High School opened their doors to us for filming. We had hair and makeup services donated. We shot for seven hours to get 60 seconds of footage. Every single student under 18 came with a parent or guardian who gave us the freedom to work with their child. How amazing is that? These students shared their personal bullying stories and confirmed for us that we are truly making a difference. They all had something to say. We gave them a forum in which to say it.
What message do you want to get across with Dare2Care’s anti-bullying PSA?
One, what we say to each other matters. Two, words do indeed kill. Not just what we say, but how we say it. Three, daring to care requires courage. Every child is everyone’s child and using ugly words to label another human being is cruel and devastating.