Their goal is to open “World Changer Camps” in struggling communities across the country where kids are living near or below the poverty line and make those camps free to the families. They also offer digital copies of their social-emotional learning curriculum for free to all schools.
We had to know what goes into taking on such an important but difficult cause. So, we reached out to one of Fox and Trove’s founders and executive director, Jami Schaer, to get some insight into what makes this incredible organization tick and hear their story.
Schaer often talks about resilient happiness, which to her is a “happiness so strong it will protect [young kids’] hearts when we can’t, empower them to make good choices, be good people, and get back up when they fall.”
This is a wonderful thing to instill in everyone — but particularly young kids, a.k.a., the “future world-changers.”
Q. The fight against bullying is a very worthy but very specific cause. What got you interested and passionate about it?
When my daughter was in preschool, I kept hearing from friends with older kids that bullying had already started in kindergarten and 1st grade. I couldn’t believe it was starting so early and I knew I had to do something about it. At the same time, I saw tees on Etsy marketed to toddlers that said, “You Can’t Sit With Us”. I know it’s a funny quote from a great movie (Mean Girls) but I didn’t like the idea of it being on a kid’s tee.
Q. What did you think would be the best way to counter a message like that?
So, the first thing I did was open an Etsy shop and made a kids’ tee that said, “You Can Sit With Us”. I also added tees that said, “Kindness is the Coolest” and “My Heart is Beautiful”. As much as I ended up loving designing happy tees, I knew tees wouldn’t be enough, so I wrote a business plan that included a school kindness curriculum and a summer kindness camp. And the rest is history!
Q. Wrangling 16 future World Changers at a summer camp has got to be a difficult job! How do you keep them engaged and active around such a heavy topic?
I love this question! You’re right, these are very heavy topics (empathy, conflict resolution, resilience, inclusiveness, etc). We know kids learn best when they’re having fun, so we teach these serious skills through ridiculously fun games, crafts and activities. Our goal is for the world changers’ faces to hurt at the end of the day from smiling and laughing so much.
Q. Some people believe that this cultural shift toward acceptance and inclusivity is turning children into ‘snowflakes.’ What would you say to them?
I actually don’t disagree. This is exactly why we teach the balance of kindness and bravery. So, in addition to teaching empathy, kindness, inclusiveness and self-calming, we also teach kids how to have grit, be resilient, stand up for themselves, for each other and for what’s right in respectful ways. We want kids to be both kind and confident. That balance is the core of our entire program.
Q. With a name like ‘SWAGTRON’, we’re definitely no strangers to the occasional mean remark. How do you think the lessons you’re teaching these World Changers translate to adults?
We have parents and teachers tell us all the time they want to come to World Changer Camp because their kids are teaching them what they’ve learned. Adults can benefit from our self-calming techniques to cool off before engaging with a difficult person. Adults can also easily learn how to find that balance between being kind and being resilient by establishing healthy boundaries and sticking to them without guilt. And the next time someone makes fun of the cool name SWAGTRON, tell them *confidently* “we love our name!” and walk (or swipe) the other way.
Q. That’s great advice! Let’s lighten it up for a second. Besides drinking a nonfat, no whip, iced salted caramel mocha, where would you be and what would you be doing on, say, a Sunday afternoon?
Ah yes, my favorite drink. On a Sunday afternoon in the fall of Chicago, you can find me at a pumpkin patch with my family, smiling so big because it’s no longer 150 degrees, wearing a cozy poncho and sipping a hot cider instead. Or binging the podcast Here to Make Friends which lovingly snarks on my guilty pleasure, the Bachelor/Bachelorette.
Q. Finally, how do you think social media and internet personas have contributed to and/or detracted from the anti-bullying cause?
Social media and internet personas have made bullying worse while also raising more awareness at the same time. You’d think they would just cancel one another out, but, sadly, they don’t even come close. In terms of bullying, the cons outweigh the pros. I love Instagram, but as a whole, I think social media has not only made it easier to hurt others, it’s also driven the bullying into the secret underground where adults can’t see what’s happening. It’s also intensified FOMO for both adults and kids and created this new life where we’re all less connected despite social media *intending* to connect us. There is hope, though!
Q. We think so too! How can we, as adults, help? Especially parents?
Parents can do a lot by putting their phones down when their kids are around (I know it’s hard!), making eye contact with one another, being friendly to cashiers, letting a car go ahead of them, engaging with humans the way we did before phones. I’m 100% digital, I do everything online and admit to being annoyed when people call me rather than text. But I’m working on it because I see the value in showing my daughter how to truly connect to others face to face and using social media for good.