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McLean County YWCA adds anti-bias education to local schools and programs

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Breaking the cycle of bullying is the focus of a new initiative for McLean County kids.

A recent study from federal education stats found one out of five students across America reports being bullied. But the McLean County YWCA hopes to combat this with Anti-Bias training.

Understanding bias is not easy, even for an adult. But the YWCA in McLean County is looking to teach children about it, with hopes to make a difference in their future.

While seen as a complex issue, they plan to focus on what kids see on a daily basis.

"Different tones, and hair textures, clothing and culture stuff." said Melissa Breeden, YWCA, Young Wonders Senior Director

Differences that when pointed out, can be complex for a child to emotionally handle.

"We want to make sure that every kid is knowledgeable about it and even the children in the situation it's taking them aside and explaining to them why it is a bias, why it is considered bullying." said Ericka Slusarczyk, a Program Specialist for Youth Development at the YWCA

Lessons are made to be kid friendly.

"A lot of times the lessons are stories, they're drawings, they're comic books, they're poems, thoughts, and it's more a holistic and natural." said Breeden

The Bloomington Police Department, and many others in the area, have undergone similar training and think starting with kids will have a huge impact.

"You have to empathize with somebody else. You have to say if I were in their shoes knowing what their background is, how would I feel and it's kind of a mind game changer." said Officer John Fermon, the Public Information Officer for the Bloomington Police Department

"Understanding that someone has a different religion than you, culture than you, race than you, really will help them just improve in every situation. They'll know how to handle it, how to accommodate the way they need to, understanding everybody for who they are as a person individually too." said Slusarczyk

They plan to bring these lessons not only to their programs, but to local schools.

"These kids are the next generation and if we pour into them now and these conversations are natural and people are excited about it then, hopefully in the long run we will have less violence, less racism. That's a big dream, but if would be nice if we could teach them young to celebrate each other." said Breeden

The Illinois Prairie Community Foundation, Inc. awarded YWCA McLean County a grant of $1,645 from Youth Engaged in Philanthropy (YEP) to help pay for this program.

For more information on Young Wonders click here.

Kaitlin Pearson

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