The bright shoelaces stem from a fictional story that Miller and classmate and best friend Chris Barrett developed for an anti-bullying program and a final class project in their LEAD 350 (Leadership in Groups) Spring 2012 course on the topic of social change. But the project has turned into something more, something very real: Lace Up Stand Up (LUSU).
“Our mission as an organization is to empower and unite youth against bullying through the education of techniques to recognize, confront, and prevent detrimental behavior towards an individual or group to promote a happy and healthy learning environment,” states a message on Lace Up Stand Up’s Facebook page.
Miller said the program, which is aimed at educating middle school students, centers specifically on giving those who witness the bullying the skills and confidence to take action.
“That’s what Lace Up Stand Up is all about, finding allies,” he said. “We want to give students the leadership techniques and an intervention toolbox. We want to teach them so that when they go up to a bully they’ll know what to say, how to say it and the best way to approach the situation.”
Miller, a junior business administration major, leadership minor and a back-up quarterback for the Toreros, credits current School of Leadership and Education Sciences (SOLES) PhD student Crystal Dujowich, who taught the LEAD 350 class, for helping him stay on task.
“I learned at a young age about leadership from being around my dad, who is a motivational business speaker, and from being a football player, playing quarterback, a leadership position,” Miller said. “But unlike the business world and the football world, in the nonprofit world, the leadership aspect is different. I had to change my mind to it and I had to be less aggressive. I remember Crystal talked to me the first day and told me I needed to take a step back and see the whole picture.”
Dujowich said the focus of the LEAD 350 course “is to understand leadership as a complex process, which includes cultivating an awareness of self, relationships and leadership in the larger system.” LUSU, she said, was developed through a “case-in-point pedagogy where the classroom and everyone in it becomes a living example of the course material.”
Miller said the anti-bullying program appealed to him because he, too, was bullied in middle school. While in many respects LUSU is still in the development stage, the group, which also includes USD classmates Negin Mani and Adriana Kaplan, is set to achieve a goal it had for the fall semester.
“We wanted to go to a school and present it,” he said.
It will happen later this month, part of a series of opportunities to get LUSU more exposure and to test it with different audiences. Miller is the student speaker for Thursday’s USD Changemaker Fest event from noon to 2 p.m. at the Student Life Pavilion’s Plaza Mayor. He will then speak Nov. 14 to the San Diego Boys and Girls Clubs, a connection Miller made by partnering with another USD leadership minor student, Marianna Dimla, who is doing an internship with the organization. From there, LUSU will speak to students at the Monarch School in downtown San Diego on Nov. 28. The group also wants to do a weeklong program at Montgomery Middle School in Linda Vista.
Miller said USD’s winter break would be a working vacation for LUSU members, as they’ll create a curriculum and a nonprofit organization business plan. Those projects are to prepare them for two spring goals — LUSU is presenting at the USD-hosted Ashoka U Exchange Conference Feb. 21-23 and they’ll enter USD Center for Peace and Commerce’s $40,000 Social Innovation Challenge.
Dujowich said LUSU’s goals demonstrate that changemaking is an ongoing process. “Kyle and his colleagues continue to display their understanding of this journey through their resiliency and innovation. Each challenge presented to Kyle he meets. Anyone who interacts with him can clearly see the heart, passion and dedication he places in the initiatives he pursues.”
The hope, Miller said, is to eventually take this program national.
“We’re very excited to get everyone into it,” he said. “We already have kids in Ohio and Northern California asking us to put a program into their schools. The connections we’ve made so far have come through SOLES and the USD Changemaker Hub,” Miller said. “These connections are boosting our efforts and they’re helping us make positive change.”
— Ryan T. Blystone
Top photo courtesy of www.laceupstandup.com; Football photo courtesy of Brock Scott, scottphoto.net