Most 16-year-olds are just starting to acquire some decent work experience to put down on their resumes. Few can say that they are the director of a national organization, without outright lying, of course. But Trey Wheeler can.
When Wheeler was in elementary school, he was the infamous “new student” in the sea of stereotypical classroom labels. His peers would bully and harass him, often calling him names and taunting him. Which is when Wheeler decided to take a stand.
In seventh grade, he created a Facebook page to promote anti-bullying called “Bullying Prevention.” Though it started small, today it has more than 700 likes, and Wheeler hopes that number will continue to rise.
“Our main goal is to promote acceptance of individuals and a sense of belonging through our web sources,” says Wheeler. “We look to empower people through our information.”
The Bullying Prevention Team Twitter page currently has more than 200 followers, and Wheeler is working to get a website up and running to support the team’s efforts. He recently employed a staff of coordinators to help assist him in his anti-bullying campaigns.
Most recently, Tyler McKeever joined staff! He is now the National Coordinator for Minnesota. Wheeler also has coordinators working in Nashville and Liverpool, New York. So, what do the coordinators do? “We’re trying to create a support group. We want to create a community to get more people involved and let them know that bullying is an epidemic that we want to bring down.”
He explains that he wants to reach as many people as possible through his efforts, which is why he hopes to hire a coordinator from every state by the end of the year. “It’s going to take a little more effort and the extra yard,” he says.
In the next few weeks, Wheeler will be speaking at St. Gerard’s Catholic School in Lima, Ohio. He says he hopes to continue to empower people and fight back against bullying by giving motivational speeches around the country.
But he’s not sure how long teens will continue to listen to him and his staff. “We don’t know how long we can keep this up,” he says. “Most kids are not going to listen to an adult.”
Social media expert Mandi Sonnenberg, professor and educational technologist at Rockhurst University, seems to think age isn’t necessarily an issue, though, when it comes to spreading support and awareness in the anti-bullying community. “I think you have to be close to the issue,” she says. Sonnenberg encourages anti-bullying advocates of all ages to seek out support from teachers, because teachers are the ones who can directly share anti-bullying messages with the victims, their students.
So, where does Wheeler hope to take his efforts in the future? Well, he was recently elected to be the Communications Director at Project Anti-Bully, a national nonprofit organization for anti-bullying that boasts more than 3,000 followers on Twitter, so I’d say he’s continuing to make advancements in his efforts!
He hopes to soon provide some training materials and resources for bullying victims, and he even wants to work on providing counseling in the future. “That’s where we want to be in the next couple of years, but first we need our college degrees,” he says.
You’re truly inspiring, Trey. If you reach even one person, you’ve made an enormous difference. Just keep at it!