Special to South Florida Times

MIAMI — In keeping with the national initiative and campaign to end bullying in public schools, the workplace and life in general, the Jonathan Spikes Foundation in conjunction with several community partners will launch Affirming YOUth, an empowerment program.

The four-hour anti-bullying workshop will be held at 9 a.m. Saturday, at the University of Miami’s Storer Auditorium, 5250 University Dr. in Coral Gables.

Organizers say Affirming YOUth will address cultural issues such as; academics, body image, sexual orientation, HIV/AIDS, misguided assumptions and other systemic issues, which are precursors, that influence bullying amongst youth. The program is part of the Let’s Talk It Out, Conflict Resolution/Anti-Bullying Program that is already approved through Miami-Dade County Public Schools.

Organizers say Affirming YOUth is effective because it allows participants to become stakeholders in the outcome. It also allows them to share their experiences and offer tips on how “we” can stand together against hate, prejudice and stereotypes.

A study by the University of California at Los Angeles found that 20 percent of U.S. students in grades 9-12 reportedly have experienced bullying or are feeling bullied, while 28 percent of students in grades 6-12 report the same. Experts agree that most incidences of bullying occur during middle school.

The launch of the initiative is in recognition of National Bullying Prevention Month. Foundation officials hope to foster an atmosphere of understanding and compassion in South Florida.

Affirming YOUth will be facilitated by a panel of noted professionals in Miami-Dade County, including psychologists Charles Gibbs and Alyssa Rothenberg, who will also moderate open discussions after each topic to give students an opportunity to have open dialogue to process and understand the information being presented.

“I strongly believe that once youth can see past labels and stereotypes and “Talk It Out,” then we have achieved the most critical milestone of all – enabling young minds to celebrate each other’s cultural and personal differences and building better communities through compassion and understanding,” said Spikes, founder of Affirming YOUth.

Affirming YOUth is free. Parents and students are welcomed to attend. Breakfast and lunch will be served. To register or inquire about participation, please visit www.AffirmingYOUth.com.