Monday, December 31, 2012

A Reason to Skip One Day of Starbucks

As the Executive Director of the Monique Burr Foundation for Children, I am honestly overwhelmed and humbled by the progress we have made this year implementing our Speak Up Be Safe™ bullying and child abuse prevention program in elementary schools across Florida.  We expect to serve 400% more students than we did last school year.  Those 450,000 students attend the Monique Burr Foundation’s Speak Up Be Safe program in 47 out of 67 counties across the state.  (Don’t worry; we are working hard on the additional 20 counties who have not approved Speak Up Be Safe yet.) 

I think about media stories on child abuse and the horrific results from long term bullying that have caught our attention over the past year.  Some of those stories happening right here in Florida.   I don’t know a single person who didn’t hang their head when this kind of news hit the airwaves, and yet despite a nation full of concern, we are still struggling to raise funds to provide this preventative program in our public schools at no cost to the school.  We talk about these stories with ease, but at $2 a student, I wonder if our program would have changed the news.

As funds permit, we can and are implementing control features to keep our children, schools, and communities safer.  School counselors and teachers have expressed gratitude for a program that helps them teach students how to be safe against all forms of abuse and bullying at no cost to them.  Parents now have tools they didn’t even know they needed to communicate with their kids about topics that are not always comfortable but necessary.

Studies validate our approach and verify that the program content is age appropriate.  Our team of 7 employees is already working on updates to our Speak Up Be Safe program for the 2013 – 2014 school year.  We want to include the most current information about cyberbullying and bullying prevention along with developing fun interactive tools to reinforce lessons learned in the classroom.  We have also partnered with Lauren’s Kids who provides the “Safer, Smarter Kids” program for VPK – Kindergarten students. 

With all this work going on, I’m known to make a Starbucks run every now and then.  Around the holidays, I chose a Gingerbread latte… the Grande is $4.58.  It costs MBF only $2 to provide instruction and materials to a student in our state.  My coffee would pay for two students with a little left over.

Currently, we do not receive any state funding to supplement the cost of these programs.  And while it seems so simple at $2 per student, we still struggle to raise enough to meet our state’s need. In this New Year, would you be willing to step up as our kids speak up?  At the expense of one cup of Starbucks, you can provide the Speak Up Be Safe program to a student.  If you can’t forego the coffee, at a minimum “like” us on Facebook, visit our website and educate yourself on what we’re doing even if you do not have children or grandchildren.  Chances are, we’re in your community and we’re making a difference.

Happy New Year!

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