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2015 Recipient

Matthew Kaplan

Phoenix, AZ | 18

2015 Award Recipient

Matthew Kaplan always looked out for his younger brother. When he learned that some of his brother’s classmates had been bullying him via text and social media, Matthew decided to address the explosion of pernicious and pervasive bullying being targeted at and perpetrated by his peers. Matthew developed The Be "Open to New Experiences" (Be ONE) Project, a peer-to-peer program that helps bullies understand the pain they are causing and works to stop middle school bullying before it becomes habit. During his four-hour program, he uses games, activities, and guided discussion to create a more inclusive school environment. The Be ONE Project now has 501(c)(3) status and has expanded its outreach efforts through a public service announcement on Disney Channel and partnership with Teen Lifeline, a local teen crisis response organization. Through community programs and speaking engagements, Be ONE has engaged hundreds of teen volunteers and reached more than 3,600 students in Arizona, California, Virginia, and Indiana. Besides these statistics, the best measure of Be ONE’s success is the apologies offered and accepted, the friendships repaired, the bridges built, and the lives touched. Matthew’s goal is to continue growing Be ONE into a broad-reaching national organization with a “curriculum in a box” other teen leaders can use to implement the program in their own schools.

The Be ONE Project

The Be ONE Project is a community-building, peer-to-peer, anti-bullying program designed for middle schools. In the four-hour sessions, teen volunteers use games and guided discussion to create a more inclusive school environment.