Matthew Kaplan, Be O.N.E.

Matthew Kaplan is a sixteen year old high school junior who is dedicated to putting an end to middle school bullying in Phoenix, Arizona. In an effort to stop bullying before it becomes ingrained in school culture, Matthew created a free community building and bullying prevention program for 5th-8th grade students at his old middle school called The “Be Open to New Experience” (“Be O.N.E.”) Project.

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The Be O.N.E. Project is an interactive day of games, activities, and guided discussions designed to build community, foster empathy, and create mutual respect amongst middle school students. By emphasizing the unique concept of Positive Peer Pressure, the project helps students create a learning environment free of physical, verbal, and cyber bullying. To date, over 900 students and 150 teachers have participated in The Be O.N.E. Project, and the program has been integrated into Arizona School of the Arts’ mandatory curriculum. “Middle school is a rocky, uphill section of life’s climb,” says Matthew. “This is the crucial time to intervene – to create empathy and understanding. Be O.N.E. creates perspective, so the students can create for themselves an environment where everyone feels valued and seen.”

Matthew hopes to bring the program to other schools across Arizona and the nation with help from the Pollination Project grant.