Victor is a Data Storage Engineer by day, and a non-profit executive by night. His organization, Fly By Nature, teaches kids how to deal with bullying and childhood trauma so that they can focus on academic success. Knowing that his curriculum is making an important, positive impact in kids’ lives makes it all worthwhile for Victor. Fly By Nature made a short film highlighting the experience of one of their Youth Advisory Board members, which has already been selected for 2022 film festivals. You can watch the film here and can learn more about the organization here.
What inspired you to start Fly By Nature?
My grandparents raised me growing up and my grandfather was a community activist. He started his own nonprofit that helps at-risk youth. He started that when I was 4 years old, and as I got older I became a participant in the program. I knew from that experience that I wanted to do something that helped kids. One day, I came across a news article about an 8-year-old named Gabriel who committed suicide after being bullied at school. I started doing research and was astounded at how normal it’s become for kids to take their own lives because they feel they have no other option. I learned about the underlying layers of these issues— childhood trauma, bullying, and abuse leads to anger building up inside. I decided to create a curriculum for kids to understand what bullying is, how to deal with it, and what causes it.
Can you tell us about your programming?
We started in an elementary school teaching 4th and 5th graders. Now we work in elementary and middle schools and want to expand to high schools. Our programs deal with bullying, building emotional intelligence, learning nonviolent communication, and teaching empathy, kindness, and diversity. We also have a suicide awareness and substance abuse course to try to stop kids from self medicating to deal with trauma. Artistic expression always helps with anxiety, and kids get to use painting, drawing, writing, or any other art form to encapsulate what they learned from the program. Hopefully the program will help them achieve academic success because trauma can affect the ability to learn, and we are giving them the tools to appropriately deal with their trauma. We believe in using restorative justice practices, not just punishment, to learn more about what the root of the issue is.
Can you talk about the implications of bullying and cyberbullying on students?
The CDC puts out a youth risk behavior survey every year and the numbers are shocking. According to their research, 36% of females were bullied on school property during a 12-month period and for males it was 27%. The suicide rates are much higher than you would expect. Internet safety is a big part of what we teach. We talk about digital reputation and being careful about what you post. We show kids videos about how you think you’re talking to someone your age online, but when you go to meet up with them it could be someone else. There are monitoring tools parents can use to watch their kids’ internet and social media activity if they are concerned about their safety. You can also put limits on the phone so that it turns off social media apps after a certain hour.
Where do you hope to take Fly By Nature in the future?
We are actually currently in the process of expanding. A family member of mine started an organization called Mixed Behavior, and we are partnering with them. They will receive our curriculum and will share it with schools in Oakland and Los Angeles, California. Long term, I would love for this to be a staple afterschool program in schools across the country and world. I didn’t have access to these kinds of tools growing up, so I want to provide them to as many kids as possible.