Center on Halsted provides safe space to talk about bullying

CHICAGO (WLS) -- At Chicago's Center on Halsted, youth and adults have a safe space to express themselves, heal and help others.

During a recent workshop, the topic of bullying inevitably comes up.

"I've been bullied all through my schooling growing up," one participant said.

"My first experience of being bullied was in middle school that's when I figured out I was gay," another person said.

"From my middle school age until I was in high school I was bullied all the time," a third person said.

According to a survey by Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network, over half of all LGBTQ students felt unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation.

"It's important for us to create a space where we are accepting of all genders and all identities and that happens in all our programming and from the moment you walk in the door," said Modesto Valle, CEO of Center on Halsted.

Greg Storms, the center's director of youth services, said they are offering bullying-related programming this because it's National Bullying Prevention Month.

Storms said he can relate because he too was bullied.
"I had really low self-esteem as well and I even attempted suicide twice because of it," he said.

Sharing his personal story and listening to others creates a healing space for those who take part.

"If feels like I can do anything. Once I get this stuff out and I speak to somebody if you need to," said participant Maria Cwiklik.

"The purpose behind them all is to help young people help develop themselves and help them gain tools and knowledge that will assist them in addressing a lot of life's hardships," Storms said.

The Center on Halsted offers a variety of workshops about things such as bullying and self-care with on-site counselors available daily for anyone.

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October is National Bullying Prevention Month. All month, Disney and ABC7 will promote our #ChooseKindness campaign to inspire everyone to take a stand against bullying.

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