CombatACE Interview with: Barbara Owens
Bullying is a problem we are all familiar with. New reports released by various organizations, including the United States CDC, reveal shocking statistics about the negative impact bullying has on it's victims. CombatACE has featured the interview of an USAF JROTC Cadet who is helping to lead the way for the development of a Speak Life chapter in his area. To learn more about the Speak Life chapter, I reached out to Barbara Owens, the founder of Speak Life. Yes this interview may not be focused on military, gaming, or aviation; however, this organization is something I think many of you would like to know about.
Ms. Owens has kindly agreed to do an interview with CombatACE and tell us more about Speak Life. Thank you so much Ms. Owens for taking the time to do this interview. So to get started, the short description about your organization, Speak Life, is that it's an anti-bullying program. Could you tell us a little more about Speak Life?
Speak Life’s Mission is to Unite & Improve Our Community Through Our Local Youth. We strive to bring awareness and hope to educate on the issue of bullying and the effects that it can have on our children today. We want to offer hope for every child who experiences the harmful effects of bullying and help guide them to pursue their passions whatever they may be. It’s so important to teach them that Confidence is key.
What were the events that motivated you to create Speak Life?
It was the children. Years ago we didn’t have to worry about bullies except on a school yard or at a local park. Today, that’s not the case. Children and teens, because of social media have bullies that follow them right into their homes. We want to remain a positive outlet for children that reminds them that they are not alone in what they are facing. It is imperative that we show them that no matter what life throws your way, confidence is key. In Speak Life they learn that they aren’t alone, they connect with other children and teens that are going through the same situations that they too are facing, they connect through what they are passionate about and begin working with our organization to make a difference. Once their confidence is restored it’s truly amazing to see these children begin mentoring others.
How well has your organization been received by your community as well as other communities?
We have a lot of amazing and wonderful people in our community that have supported our efforts and still do. Other communities love what we are doing with the kids and the events that we have done for the past four years and now have a Speak Life in Beebe, Ark. Others have reached out to start a Speak Life in their area. I think people like the positive message that we try so hard to send to the kids. It’s not about dwelling on what you’re going through but using that as a stepping stone to make you stronger.
What are some of things Speak Life does for the kids who are victims of bullying?
I don’t feel that there are victims, just children that have had to deal with bullies. You’re only a victim if you allow the bully to victimize you and life is too short and precious to fall victim to anyone or anything. For children or teens that have been through bullying situations we have connected them with celebrities, internships, jobs, and other areas that allows them to pursue what they are passionate about in order to restructure and build their self-confidence.
Speaking of being the victim of bullying, is your organization just a place for kids to find a shoulder to cry on? What are some of the things Speak Life does to help the those are subject to bullying?
We are definitely not just a shoulder to cry on. Of course we are there to support these children in every way possible but the goal is to redirect the negative influences and information into positive concepts that will change hearts and attitudes and have a lasting impression on the kids that need it the most.
What about the bullies themselves? Does your organization offer any help to them? There are some who might say that the bullies too have problems to deal with. Or that kids need to learn how to cope with these things.
It’s not meant for us to know what someone else is facing and we can’t walk a mile in their shoes so you never know what a bully could also be facing. Yes, some bully just because but there are others that are bullying because they are facing problems that others aren’t aware of. It is so important that you always be open to helping everyone because unless you can walk in their shoes, you have no idea what life has thrown their way and they just may need your help.
What are some of the challenges you and your team encounter and how are those challenges overcome?
It took quite some time for us to send the message that we are not here to do anything but send a positive message and support the children in our community in a positive way. When you mention the word “bully” people tend to get really defensive and think that you are wanting to harp on the negative when you are working so hard to do exactly the opposite.
What kind of impact has Speak Life had on the teens in your program?
I think it’s had a great impact and we hope to do more. We make every effort to show these children just how amazing they truly are. With every child comes a story and they truly are the light, sometimes they just lose sight of that and need us to remind them of just how wonderful and confident they are.
What are some of the things you'd like Speak Life to accomplish?
An office space is now what we are working to accomplish so that we can do more. We have children that are interested in web design, social media, photography, journalism and much more and with an office space we can better connect these children in working directly with our organization, celebrities and upcoming programs.
What can someone do to help your organization? Can they open a new chapter in
Yes, people can always connect with us if they are interested in opening a Speak Life in their area and if they are in the Heber Springs area we can always use volunteers.
Speaking of opening new chapters, how many different branches does Speak Life and how many are you planning to have by the end of the year?
Right now we just have a Speak Life in Heber Springs and one in Beebe Arkansas
Some people will probably like the fact you teach your teens to find the positive things in life. To hold on to them and move forward as much as they can beyond the negativity. So where can they send their donations?
They can send any donations for Teen Recruiters to any US Bank Location and thank you so much for any donations in advance without them we couldn’t continue our efforts with the children. We are a 501c3 non-profit organization so they can contact us and their donations are tax deductible.
Do you have final thoughts that you'd like share with your teens, supporters, our readers?
Yes, thank you.
To our teens and children, you have changed my life. Watching all of you come into our program and accomplish so much gives me so much strength and happiness you’ll never know. We all face so much in life but surround yourself with positive people and work every day to change the lives of others whether that’s through helping someone with their books, giving someone a smile that needs it or volunteering in your community to create a better tomorrow.
To our supporters, we couldn’t do half of what we do without you. Thank you for helping us to continue to make a difference.
To our readers, if your child is withdrawn, going through a situation or being bullied, it’s so important to let that child know that they aren’t alone. That tends to be the first thing a child or teen thinks. In finding that they aren’t alone in what they are facing they immediately feel a sense of relief. Find out what their passion is and create connections that will support that in ways that will help to build their self-confidence again. We will all experience bumps in the road, but as long as you stay positive and believe in yourself, you can get through anything.
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