Take a Stand: How EXPLO Students Show Courage to Stop Bullying

November 1, 2017

It’s jarring when you’re standing in the community room watching students physically cross the room to identify themselves as victims or perpetrators, bystanders or allies to bullying in their lives outside of EXPLO. Because whatever prompt the moderator provides — racial slurs, sexist comments, homophobic slander, socioeconomic prejudice — there is never just one student or staff member making the brave trek through the middle of the circle.


We’ve long known that bullying is a pervasive issue in schools, and that by 13 the majority of kids have experienced bullying in some form or another. Maybe they’ve been bullied, or maybe fewer times than they’re proud to admit, they’ve bullied someone else. More often than anything else, they’ve observed it from a distance and hesitated to step in and speak up — to take a stand.


Take a Stand night is an annual tradition at EXPLO at Wellesley where more than 200 students come together to share how they’ve been affected by bullying in a judgment-free space. It is a profound experience for many of them, who have not always had a supportive place to express how they’ve been hurt or even hurt others.

It is a profound experience for many [students], who have not always had a supportive place to express how they’ve been hurt or even hurt others.

“We break into small groups, and start with icebreakers,” says Elliot Targum, Head of EXPLO at Wellesley. “Are we bystanders or bullies? Are we allies? We talk about how we can make the world a less bullied place and move toward the ally side.”

Claiming Their Identity

Students at EXPLO quickly learn to trust and take comfort in the community of kindness that welcomes them just as they are. And so, when they choose to participate in Take a Stand, they have the courage to appear imperfect — something that most young teenagers wouldn’t dare risk anywhere else.

“The EXPLO mission states that ‘our students are encouraged to respect the differences that make us individuals and to find the common ground that makes us a community,’” says Andrew Barter, dean of students at EXPLO at Wellesley. “We take great pride in cultivating and supporting an environment that is open and accepting of all.”

As the night progresses, the students are asked to think critically about how an inviting and inclusive community like EXPLO is created (and how they can carry that home with them). Every student is given the opportunity to share something that, in any other environment, could feel shameful or embarrassing.

Every student is given the opportunity to share something that, in any other environment, could feel shameful or embarrassing.

They discuss their fear of being bullied, and how hard it can be to step in when someone else is being persecuted. Together, they come up with solutions for how they’re going to make a difference going forward, how they can stand against intolerance in their schools at home, and how they can be there for classmates who need support.

“We’re asking kids to claim their identity, asking them not to be passive,” Targum says. “To be courageous. To be a participant in life.”

“We’re asking kids to claim their identity, asking them not to be passive,” Targum says. “To be courageous. To be a participant in life.”

Courage on Display

Before the night is over, every student is invited to literally take a stand behind the podium to speak up for what they believe in — and to speak out against behavior (their own and that of others) that they will no longer tolerate.

“I was impressed with the number of EXPLO students who opted to make themselves vulnerable, lean into discomfort, and join this critical conversation,” Barter says. “It took true courage and a drive for social justice. It was a source of personal strength and encouragement to see the students tackle such a complicated and difficult topic with such care and compassion. All who participated in Take A Stand left feeling more connected and supported."

It was a source of personal strength and encouragement to see the students tackle such a complicated and difficult topic with such care and compassion.

"To talk about bullying is to identify it and take ownership of it; to take ownership of it means that we can work together to stop it.”

By Chris Glasser

Tag: EXPLO at Wellesley

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