Matthew Frazier recalls being bullied at different times in his life. “For example, I grew up in a small community in Utah, where most everyone was white, and I am Native American. I was bullied because I was the only brown boy. There wasn’t a lot of diversity,” he says.
“Nowadays the divisiveness in our country is heightened, and it trickles down to our kids. And social media is another place kids can be bullied – there have been suicides by kids who could not take the bullying.”
Frazier, a longtime UNLV supporter, took it upon himself to apply the social wellness goals of the Kish Foundation to create an anti-bullying program that connects UNLV athletes to kids at underprivileged schools. Frazier, who is a trustee of the Kish Foundation, funded UNLV’s Rebel Acts of Kindness program last year.
“We had already been bringing kids to Rebel games, but I wanted to get the athletes into their schools. I wanted this to be an experience for the college athletes, too, to build mentoring relationships.”
So the student-athletes first went to Sewell Elementary for a pep rally in which they brought UNLV band members, Hey Reb!, and the Rebel cheerleaders, and then — after an upbeat program — they shared their stories of bullying.
“We just gave the student-athletes the floor, and they told the kids about times they’d been bullied, and how it’s not cool to bully. It makes a big difference,” Frazier says. From there, kids were encouraged to do “acts of kindness” throughout the month. At the end of the program, a child from every grade who had completed the most acts of kindness received tickets for their families to attend a Rebel football game, and the kids went on field to be recognized at halftime.
“It’s also a way to get families involved with UNLV who might not otherwise be thinking of college,” Frazier says. “It’s really a win-win. We’re building healthy relationships, and that’s what it is all about.”
Rebels benefit from the program as much as local kids.
Volleyball star and civil engineering major Sadie Stutzman stands 6-foot-2 and is a four-time Mountain West Scholar-Athlete and a two-time Fall Academic All-Mountain West Team member. She knows what it feels like to excel. But, she told the group of elementary school students, she also knows what it’s like to be bullied.
“We were sharing stories of being bullied with the kids, and I told them that sometimes I was my own bully,” she says. “If I messed up in a game, I would get so down on myself and say mean things to myself. Then I realized, that’s not okay. This is supposed to be fun – it’s a game – and I shouldn’t bully myself or anyone else.”
The kids, she says, embraced her message.
“We brought joy to the school. We sang the UNLV fight song, we gave them swag bags with water bottles, and we talked about being positive. We said, 'Do you like bullying?' and they all said together, 'NO!'
“It was kindness in action,” Stutzman says.
“We know that it’s going to be good for the kids, but it’s honestly good for us, too.” she says. “You feed off of each other’s positive energy.”
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