November 19, 2013

Go Inspire Go 50/50 Hero: The Be ONE Project

What started out as a crazy idea has manifested. Our goal of spotlighting 50 heroes in 50 states has resulted in numerous blessings, miracles and new friendships. Thank you to everyone who supported and blessed this project. If you're interested in being part of our mission to uncover everyday heroes, reach out: -- we'd love to hear from you.

The Be ONE Project

Who: Matthew Kaplan
What: Peer-to-Peer Anti-Bullying Program Targeting Middle Schools
Where: Phoenix
Why: It's cool to be kind!

The Catalyst: Bullying is a topic of concern in schools across America. With convenient access to digital devices and social media, hurtful messages are multiplied and spread like chicken pox. Adding to the angst, kids can post harmful messages with anonymity, ease and without a real-time reaction from the victim.

When Matthew Kaplan's kid brother Josh was bullied in middle school, he decided he had to do something. "One day, he came home from school and his self-confidence was shaken," Matthew said. "He started to withdraw and wasn't himself anymore."

Josh said he received dozens of hurtful text messages, like "you suck". What made things worse -- he discovered that his friends, disguised behind blocked phone numbers, were sending the messages. It may sound benign, but at that age, friends are your world, so when you get several messages, you start to think there really is something wrong with you. “It felt horrible," Josh said. "I probably cried every day in the 4th and 5th grade.”

Big brother Matthew took advocacy to a heroic level by creating the anti-bullying peer experiential program, The Be ONE (Open to New Experiences) Project.

The Act: Through this journey, Matthew discovered his passion: Building community and fostering a positive school culture.

But how? He researched anti-bullying programs targeting middle schoolers, but could only find high school programs and believes that "the damage" is done by that age. "It's been ingrained, become habit. You have to get them in middle school -- that's when they're figuring out their sense of self," Matthew said.

Without an example, Matthew decided to create a middle school anti-bullying program using peer pressure in a positive way. "What if it were cool to be kind?” he preaches enthusiastically. "What if peer pressure could be used as inclusiveness instead of exclusiveness? When they have this tool, they could either be supportive or disruptive. I want them to recognize that they have the power.”

The Be ONE Project is a "positive peer pressure" program. It starts with fun exercises, like holding hands in a big circle and passing a hula hoop around without letting go of hands. There's joy and lots of laughing. Kids get to know each other and make connections.

The day progresses with focused, serious exercises when kids are asked to sit in a circle and have 90 seconds each to finish the following sentence: "When others see me, they think _____. But if they really knew who I am _____."

“The Be ONE” challenge is the last activity. When Matthew, who delivers self-defining statements with the passion of an older brother and conviction of a minister, describes a situation, kids are instructed to stand in a line and "Be One" to cross an imaginary line, if the description resonates with them.

At the end of the program, there is a noticeable change of enlightenment and compassion in the kids. Many have tears.

Grab a tissue and watch how every single kid has “crossed a line.” Be inspired to take action -- you will discover that you have the power to BE ONE person that is the change-maker in your community:

The Ripples (Updated Oct. 2015):

  • Matthew has inspired more than 150 Arizona teachers and high school students to be team leaders during the day-long middle school program. The Be ONE Project is now being piloted at a local high school, where 20 high school students are being trained to be Be ONE Presenters.

  • Awarded a 2014 Peace First Prize, a two-year, $25,000 fellowship that recognizes youth peacemakers.

  • A commercial about Be ONE has been on the Disney Channel as part of their Make Your Mark Campaign.

  • Radio Disney Music Awards presented The Be ONE Project with an award in 2014 as Radio Disney's Friends for Change Teen Hero.

  • Invited to the 2014 Three Dot Dash Global Teen Leader Summit, a week-long workshop in New York City whose participants are selected based on their extraordinary work on humanitarian issues

  • 2015 Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Award recipient, given to Jewish teens who demonstrate exceptional leadership

  • Featured as part of a promotion for the movie "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty."

  • True Hero Grantee, which awards grants to community service projects

  • Matthew is currently a student at Duke University. He was awarded the Robertson Scholarship: a full ride scholarship that includes tuition, room and board and three summer experiences and a semester abroad. Robertson Scholars are chosen based on their leadership and the commitment to social change. Matthew is also working to bring The Be ONE Project to North Carolina schools.

    Nothing brings me more joy than inspiring people to be better and do better. Spreading compassion and action is the biggest reward for me and all the heroes I meet. I spoke to students who participated and asked them how it changed their lives. Their answers were mature, candid and give me hope.

    "If I was going to send a text that would hurt their feelings, I would think about it and delete it and say something nice." -Sam, 14, 8th grader

    "A group of 6th graders that didn't go through the program, they're like the popular kids, now they're bullying a bunch of the 5th graders. But all the kids that did (go through the program) are trying to stop it. Really helps to go through the program. It changes your ways." -Kayla, 11, 6th grader

    "I look for people who are eating alone (at lunch) and I talk to them. I made many new friends this way." -Anonymous

    Matthew’s goal is to get “The Be O.N.E” program in every Arizona middle school. We believe he will reach this goal. Join in on the fun and be the one who inspires kindness in your community. After all, it is cool to be kind.

    - For more info. on ripples: The Be One Projects Awards and Recognition Page

    What can YOU do?!

    Take Action:

    1. Support The Be ONE Project
    2. Be the ONE to change your school culture. Invite Matthew Kaplan to come present at your school:
    3. Learn more about what YOU can do!

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    For more information on our 50/50 campaign, check out our blog: 50 Heroes, 50 States, 1 Inspiring Journey!

    Hit share if you care, please share, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or comment.
    Join us & Go Inspire Go…
  • November 14, 2013

    50 Heroes, 50 States, 1 Inspiring Journey

    What started out as a crazy idea is about to become a reality. Our goal of spotlighting 50 heroes in 50 states has resulted in numerous blessings, miracles and new friendships. We're so excited to unveil our first hero to you next week. But read on, and we'll give you a sneak peek.

    The seed of this journey was planted five years ago with a gut feeling. You know, that nagging feeling that you should've, would've or could've done something to solve a problem that you’ve observed in your community?

    While reporting for a San Francisco TV news station, that pang continuously nudged me and I responded by creating stories that inspired people to action. The idea was so audacious, ambitious and effervescent.

    Change is scary. How would I pay bills, bridge the professional gap in my resume and explain to others?

    Fast forward five years later… I made the leap and started Go Inspire Go, which keeps growing and going.

    We've produced more than 60 videos, more than 90 people or "GIGSTERS" globally have contributed to sharing stories of heroes and impact. Through our life-changing stories of viewers who discovered their power to help those we've featured. Collectively, my team and I have spent countless volunteer hours researching, coding, designing graphics and producing more than $1 million dollars worth of story content.

    There's a lot more work to do.

    After many conversations with family, friends and mentors, I saw patterns and created an algorithm: find everyday heroes, spend time to get to know them, tell their stories in an authentic way and leverage social media to inspire action (there are action items at the end of all of our blogs and videos).

    Earlier this year, my team and I had an organic idea to take Go Inspire Go to the next level: leverage the power of the people through crowdsource funding to produce and highlight more stories. Our goal: to uncover 50 heroes in 50 states, where we shine a spotlight on everyday heroes. Our 50/50 campaign will spotlight an inspirational symbol of inspiration, kindness and generosity.

    The target was to raise $25,000 to create the first batch of stories. Thanks to you and our fabulous team and volunteers (about 45 people), we raised $35,000.

    I'm overwhelmed and humbled as I count the miracles and blessings that continue to unfold: the story ideas you send to us, the people that show up to volunteer just when we need them, and the energy you’re sending our way.

    Through Twitter we met Alissa Hauser with The Pollination Project (TPP), an innovative organization that gives seed grants -- $1,000 to individual change-makers every day of the year. Yup, every day! We just had to join forces to hook up our first hero. Oh the power of 140 characters!

    What's the story? Well, you’ll have to wait and see, hear and feel all the details. We launch on Tuesday, Nov. 19. Here's a tease: It involves a teenager, peer pressure for good, anti-bullying and the battle against teenage social media mayhem.

    This story will change lives. It will save lives. It will also inspire some fun and compassion.

    This journey could be summed up in two of my favorite quotes:

    "Once you know, you can't pretend you don't." - Oprah

    I know that there are everyday heroes out there who need a little boost. Likewise, viewers like you need a nudge to discover your inner superhero so you can take action. Go Inspire Go bridges the gap by entertaining, empowering and inspiring action.

    "Oh the places you'll go…" - Dr. Seuss

    So what are you waiting for? There are too many heroes to ignore. Won’t you join us now? You’ll somehow discover how. Hit share if you care, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or comment won’t you dare?!

    Now that you know… Wontcha join us? Go Inspire Go…