Two simple words help dispatch complex issue of bullying

The 2016 Seneca County Health Assessment revealed that 44 percent of area youth reported being bullied in the past year. Youth violence/bullying was identified as one of the priorities to be addressed by the Seneca County Health Alliance’s Community Health Improvement Plan. For that reason, a Seneca County Bullying Prevention Coalition was formed to research bullying in Seneca County and determine effective means of prevention. This coalition is made up of concerned citizens, community leaders and local organizations involved with youth. The coalition is gathering information from local entities to help the community become more aware of the practices that are currently in place to prevent bullying behaviors.

This, the third in a series, is written by Matthew J. Coleman, mentor coordinator for Seneca Mentoring Youth Links.

Choose kindness. These are two simple words I recently heard come across the television as my kids watched Disney the other day. What a great, simple slogan that could make this often crazy world, a whole lot more enjoyable for many.

In a world where things seem so complex, this slogan really stands out to me. After enjoying my time working for Tiffin Park and Recreation Department for the last 17 years, I am happy to start each day with a SMYL (Seneca Mentoring Youth Links).

As I sit down to write this column, I can’t help but think about how thankful I am to live in such a caring and tight-knit community. In a time when hate and negativity are everywhere, I feel extremely fortunate to call myself a lifelong Seneca County resident.

I am not blind or naive to think that we don’t have negativity and bullying in this great community, but I realize we also have so much positive to build on. We must accentuate the positive. Our goal at SMYL is to help the youth of our community to make better decisions for a brighter future!

As I read the column on bullying the last two weeks from the Tiffin City Schools and the Tiffin Community YMCA, I once again thanked God I am living in a positive community in which organizations and individuals continue to look out for and mold young minds that need help. These entities, as well as many others in our community “get it.”

They realize words do hurt and that having clear and consistent expectations may help children become more confident. Expectations for our children and adults alike will help us to avoid those ugly words such as entitlement and enabling that seem to be such a problem in our society.

While I feel lucky to have not been bullied as a youth, I am ashamed to reflect on days where I know I should have spoken up more often and not just been a bystander. Sometimes, all it takes is one person to lend a hand to squelch a bully.

We also must realize bullying is much different these days. As a child, I did not own my first cellphone until college. I did not join Myspace until I was in college and other social media outlets until my adult life.

Youths today have an extremely difficult time even getting away from bullying due to their access to social media outlets and technology. We, as adults, must be better at helping to explore the outdoors and simply allowing them to be kids.

As many of us know today, bullying has become an epidemic. As a former high school coach and current youth coach, I know bullying still is prevalent and often can be misconceived and mishandled.

Reading Michelle Tuite’s thoughts about words really hurting are so true. Oftentimes, the results of children being bullied does not come out right away. A child may later uncover bruises that come out in depression, anger and aggression years later in life. How unfortunate and painful can this be? Probably more painful than a physical bruise that may go away quickly.

Seneca Mentoring Youth Links is a program of the Seneca County Family and Children’s First Council housed at Tiffin-Seneca United Way. We work closely with the Wraparound program to “wrap” resources around families in need in our community.

At SMYL, our main role is to place adults in the lives of youth in our community to be a positive resource and to help the youth realize just how special they truly are. Self-esteem is such a fragile quality that I know can be greatly affected by those in our community simply by choosing kindness.

Our SMYL program can best be broken down into three programs: traditional one-to-one mentoring; School Pals; and the Impact Youth Center.

Traditional one-to-one mentoring is the mentoring of a 6-17 year old child in need who is matched with an adult. The mentor is entrusted to help guide a young mind to build a sense of resiliency and simply be optimistic in all of their daily endeavors.

Secondly, there is our School Pal program at Fostoria Intermediate School, Tiffin Middle School, Bridges Community Academy and North Central Academy. This program is focused on the 40 developmental assets of the Search Institute and helps students to build a personal relationship with mentors while also teaching internal and external assets such as honesty, integrity, self-esteem and the importance of positive role models among others. We also try to incorporate models of leadership and positive decision-making.

Lastly, the Impact Youth program is taking applications for our second year as an after-school program providing a combination of effective skills for youths in grades 6-12. The program combines social competencies and academic support, and establishes structured rules, physical and mental health, the arts, community service, as well as career exploration opportunities. We combine fun with learning and attempt to give the students a chance to get away from the technology and bullying after school.

SMYL is very lucky to have great state, regional and local support. We have numerous community partners who help us in a number of ways, such as hosting events, speakers and funding among other things. Our two universities, Heidelberg and Tiffin University, have been true leaders in helping to provide mentoring to the youth in our program. The universities continually provide opportunities for our youth to fit in through events and providing mentors. What a great example from these diverse university students of helping our youth to stand up to bullies and to be bold, brave, beautiful, strong, powerful, loud, proud, different and to be you!

If there is anyone interested in learning more about Seneca Mentoring Youth Links or wanting to become a mentor in any of our programs, you can contact me at You can also visit or like us on Facebook at SMYL.

In closing, I simply want to remind those in our community just how great they are. Please stay positive and remember to “Choose Kindness!”