Ross Johnson photo Keenan West presents to White Pine Middle School

Ross Johnson photo
Keenan West presents to White Pine Middle School

White Pine Middle School holds its annual anti-bullying assembly every January, but this year parents took another step. Mother Jami Brinkerhoff invited public speaker and recording artist Keenan West.

“We needed to do something a little different,” Brinkerhoff said.

On Thursday, Jan. 21, West kept his adolescent crowd entertained and engaged with pop culture references and dancing teachers before presenting his music video, titled “Never Ever.”

From Cincinnati, Ohio, West has presented his anti-bullying message to schools around the country for the last four years.

“I found my place in the anti-bullying movement,” he said. “When I was in school, I was a bystander. What we’ve learned is that if we get the bystander to turn into an ‘upstander’ it really makes a difference. We want to give them the resources and courage to stand up for one another. The focus is upbeat and fun, with music videos to engage them.”

He plans to return next year.

“This assembly absolutely reflected our students really well,” Principal Sharyl Allen said. “I really appreciated the message and I’m very appreciative of the PTO’s efforts to bring him here. Treating people well is a district-wide effort.”

The school conducts a bullying survey three times per year and, according to Allen, 75 percent of kids report never being bullied or seeing bullying. 13 percent report being involved in some way, and from there the issues are addressed on a case-by-case basis.

“The middle school faculty and staff are buying into this program,” Brinkerhoff said. “I reached out to all the principals in the district and they all came on board. We wanted someone who has the knowledge. We were looking for someone who would really be effective. Keenan did us a favor.”