At the end of the summer this year, a good and very respected friend, Sean Kosofsky, moved from Raleigh, NC to New York City to become the Executive Director of a new nonprofit, the Tyler Clementi Foundation. I just knew this would be a great organization to highlight for this year’s Bullying Awareness Month blog.
For those not familiar, here is a link to Tyler Clementi’s story.
STAN: “Sean, first can you tell me a little about the Tyler Clementi Foundation, like its mission and vision?”
SEAN: “The Tyler Clementi Foundation is a national organization committed to ending bullying, harassment and humiliation, online and offline, especially for marginalized youth. Our mission is to promote safe, inclusive and respectful social environments in homes, schools, campuses, churches and the digital world for vulnerable youth, LGBT youth and their allies. We have only been around for a few years but the Clementi family has spoken to well over 10,000 folks around the country and continue to build a strong organization and board through their committed time and energy. In the coming months we hope to expand our programs, increase our visibility and build lasting partnerships that will help us reduce bullying.”
STAN: “This foundation is quite new. Who started it and why?”
SEAN: “We were incorporated in 2010 but really started to grow in the past year. The Tyler Clementi Foundation was started by the family to provide a vehicle to help stop the suffering of other youth. The Clementi family story is powerful and it captured the attention of people all over the world. Instead of just mourning the loss of their son and then retreating, they decided that something had to be done and if they could build on the public outpouring of support, they should.”
STAN: “What is particularly unique about the Tyler Clementi Foundation? What work are you doing that no one really is?”
SEAN: “We want to differentiate ourselves in this sector by developing high quality programs, rooted in research that can measurably improve the lives of young people. We don’t want to create any unnecessary duplication of services. We want to fill gaps in the sector, especially on college campuses and online. We need more research on effective messaging and more tools to get into the hands of parents and people of faith on how to address bullying…even if their child is bullying.”
STAN: “What spoke to you and personally drew you to move now from North Carolina to New York to lead this work?”
SEAN: “Though it finally passed after I moved to NC, I helped author and create the foundation for the anti-bullying law in Michigan. I have been in the struggle for LGBT equality for over 20 years. The issue that drives most of my activism is my undying passion to stop people’s suffering in silence. The isolation and fear of the closet damaged me as a young person and I don’t want it to damage others. When I was given the opportunity to partner with the Clementi family to hopefully save lives and improve our national discourse…I jumped at the chance.”
STAN: “Is there anything else you want to tell the readers of this blog at this time?
SEAN: “Yes! We have a very exciting campaign / auction (link) right now to meet superstar Demi Lovato. Even a small donation helps and enters you in a chance to meet her. Also we have our Upstander Legacy Celebration (link) Nov 17 in NYC honoring Stephen Schwartz (Wicked / Pippin / Godspell) and Gautam Raghavan, formerly of the White House, for their contributions to the movement for LGBT equality and anti-bullying. “
STAN: “Thanks so much, Sean, and I am so pleased you found this position which matches both your expertise in non-profit leadership and your passion for impactful activism. I wish you and the Tyler Clementi Foundation the very best of success.”
Link to my 2013 Bullying Awareness Month Blog about the connection between “playground” and “workplace” harassment and bullying.
Link to my 2012 Bullying Awareness Month Blog which includes links to additional resources and blogs.