Mom on a missionPublished 4:12am Tuesday, March 19, 2013
—This feature originally appeared in Progress 2013. Get a copy at the Austin Daily Herald office, 310 Second St. NE.
Through CAB, Danielle Nesvold is taking a stand against bullying
Sometimes it takes one woman to bring a community together. That’s what Danielle Nesvold found out, as she went from concerned mom to community leader over the past two years.
The group she founded, Community Against Bullying, celebrated its two-year anniversary in February 2013, and Austin’s parents, educators and active citizens are planning bigger things to combat bullying in this town.
Nesvold started CAB in February 2011, just a few weeks after her son, Sam, was bullied at Southgate Elementary School. Bullying was a hot topic at the time, as the sudden suicide of 18-year-old Tyler Clementi sparked a national and international discussion over bullying and LGBT rights. For Nesvold, the fact that her son was being bullied by another student — who didn’t show any sign of stopping — drove her to act.
“I guess I didn’t have [CAB’s sudden growth] in my mind at the time,” Nesvold said. “What I did have was just trying to really explode awareness, and really to gauge what would happen after that.”
Nesvold described CAB’s early days as “driving off the adrenaline of what happened to her son.”
Within weeks, CAB had a purpose and a big surprise for Austin: Volunteers would raise money to bring The Scary Guy, an internationally recognized anti-bullying motivational speaker, to Austin to speak to students.
They did just that, bringing Scary to town in late October 2011 for almost two weeks. Scary spoke at each Austin school and even held public events for parents and residents on what they could do to curb bullying in the community.
Since then, CAB has put on or helped with a series of smaller events including a parenting clinic at the Paramount Theatre, and a partnership with Desperate Tears, a local suicide prevention group, for several events related to area tragedies.
Yet CAB is planning much, much more. Nesvold, the president of CAB and arguably the glue holding the group together, is working with CAB volunteers on “Paint the Town Orange,” a month-long event recognizing positive aspects of the community and educating people about bullying. “Paint the Town Orange” is scheduled for this October, which is National Anti-Bullying Month.
“It’s going to be kind of a gathering of the community,” Nesvold said.
As CAB has grown, so too has Nesvold. The long-time school volunteer and Austin Jaycees organizer has fielded calls from journalists both local and national, graduate students studying bullying from as far as Texas, and various communities around the U.S., all wondering how CAB has become so successful and how best to duplicate the awareness CAB has fostered.
“It’s an issue that really binds people together,” Nesvold said. “What’s really wonderful about Austin is people are really effective. They’re immediately thinking, ‘What can I do to be a part of this?’”
Nesvold is also embarking on a new path. She speaks to groups and organizations about anti-bullying efforts, and things they can do to foster a peaceful environment. She’ll soon speak to about 90 girl scouts from Kasson, Minn., who experienced their own tragedy when an area teenager committed suicide last year.
“There’s simple things that I’ve learned that I can address with these girls,” Nesvold said.
Bullying is not an easy issue to tackle, however. But Nesvold and other CAB volunteers are well-aware of the effort they’ll have to give to make Austin a better place.
“It brought me an awareness that I realized how big bullying is, and what it’s going to take [to combat it],” Nesvold said. “It’s going to be a continuing process to stop bullying. But I’d rather do that than just let a problem exist.”