The University of San Diego is a designated Ashoka U Changemaker Campus. As a steward of this initiative, the USD Changemaker Hub awarded nine current USD students with up to $2,000 each in the Summer Changemaker Fellowship program, which was partially funded by School of Business Administration Board of Advisors member Chris Crane. Each student has worked on a project they’re passionate about that makes positive change. This is the sixth in a series of Inside USD articles about the 2013 Summer Changemaker Fellows.
Kyle Miller is a USD senior with a full academic schedule. He gives his all as a back-up quarterback for the Torero football team. Both of those require a commitment, but there’s more: He’s the director of operations and outreach of his own organization, Lace Up Stand Up (LUSU).
It was during a LEAD 350 (Leadership in Groups) class session in spring 2012 when Miller developed Lace Up Stand Up, a workshop that aims to deter bullying in elementary schools and middle schools. Crystal Dujowich, a PhD student and graduate instructor, spoke of leadership in different group settings, thus inciting Miller to start thinking about an organization that would seek to have a group of students act as Changemakers in the lives of children.
Today, LUSU is expanding to teach young boys and girls anti-bullying techniques. More specifically, the program is centered on teaching those who witness bullying to take action against it. To promote their cause, Lace Up Stand Up members use neon green shoelaces to spread anti-bullying awareness.
Miller’s role has affected his relationship to the USD football team in a positive manner. After starting an organization that aims to help others, Miller has developed greater empathy on the football field.
“I have a new outlook on what leaders are through this project,” he said.
He admitted, though, that he was not always the confident leader he is now. Miller’s past experiences with bullying inspired him to take up the challenge of forming LUSU and becoming a Changemaker. Miller said he was bullied between fifth and seventh grades, and that it “shut down my social skills.”
Through LUSU, he and others within the organization want to prevent bullying and ensure that kids have more positive experiences in elementary school and middle school.
Like any project, LUSU faced challenges when formulating its ideals, implementing strategy, and expanding. Writing a curriculum that changes culture in elementary schools and middle schools was not easy. In addition, the LUSU team had to decide which intervention techniques to teach the kids in order for them to be best equipped to fight bullying.
The university and its resources were an invaluable asset to the LUSU team when deciding how to overcome these challenges. Having mentors such as Dujowich and the Changemaker Festival to spread awareness, LUSU found inspiration to implement their ideas into action. The organization had a third-place showing in USD’s third annual Social Innovation Challenge last spring. Miller said the $4,000 prize money has been used to promote LUSU around schools.
Miller, along with fellow LUSU members and USD students Adriana Kaplan, Chris Barrett, Negin Mani, and Dujowich, hope to expand the program this year. They are taking this fall semester to hold a six-week development program. They want to implement it in spring 2014. Twenty Boys and Girls Clubs throughout San Diego have already reached out to LUSU and will be working closely with the organization to teach kids anti-bullying techniques.
“What makes Kyle and his colleagues unique is the sincere amount of commitment they have to their cause and to one another,” Dujowich said. “This is not a success story because it was easy and came naturally. Rather, they remained focused and determined through numerous struggles and, perhaps, more importantly, were able to stay connected to important networks for support.”
Miller’s Changemaker actions have earned him and LUSU attention on campus and nationally. He has worked in the USD Changemaker Hub and has been a student committee member for the upcoming Changemaker Fest Sept 30-Oct. 4. Earlier this month, Ashoka U spotlighted his work as its National Changemaker of the Week.
“Changemaking is an ongoing process, and Kyle and his colleagues continue to display their understanding of this journey through their resiliency and innovation,” Dujowich said. “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.”
Now that he’s in his last year as an undergraduate student, Miller said he hopes to see more USD students on campus wearing the iconic neon green shoelaces as a sign of support.
“Bullying is something that affects everyone,” Miller said.
— Rashmi Chugani