Generation Next: Student’s Story Inspires Anti-Bullying Campaign

A senior at Sammamish High School, is helping people confront and stop bullying.

At the Boys and Girls Club of Bellevue Teen Center, kids are partaking in an anti-bullying campaign called “Own Their Words.”

Yana Shabanov started the social media campaign last year.

She explains how the campaign works, “We write down on a piece of paper, or we’ve been using a white board, a word that you’ve been called, that you don’t like and don’t associate yourself with,” Yana said at the beginning of a group discussion.

She launched “Own Their Words,” because she felt she could use her story to help others.

“For the longest time, she felt alone,” Masao Yamada said. “But, as she began to meet people, tell her story, then, she’s realizing she’s not alone, then the more people she tells, the more people can come out and actually feel empowered to tell their story, as well,” Yamada explained.

Masao Yamada works at the Boys and Girls Club and helped Yana launch “Own Their Words.”

“Once I put all of the negative words on a piece of paper, and kind of like threw it away afterwards, that really opened up my mind and helped me see that I am growing through everything that I’ve been through and that I am starting to become a more positive person, and I am seeing those changes,” Yana explained.

The campaign has already impacted many kids and even adults in the community, in person and online.

One of the kids in this group, Leslie Hernandez, recalls the moment she started participating in “Own Their Words.”

“I started tearing up, when I was writing the word, but at the end, I did feel scared, but I knew that it’s time to let that word go.” Hernandez recalls. “It’s time to own their word. And, that word is not me. I’m just going to take that word and turn it into something positive and just keep moving forward, with my life and just show that I’m myself,” the senior from Sammamish High School said.

Yana has already received a statewide cooperative spirit award for her work on the campaign as well as the hundreds of hours she has dedicated to the community.

She attributes this to her time at Boys and Girls Club. “The Club has given me a safe place to evolve and become a young, empowered woman, taking a stance on substance abuse and bullying in today’s society,” Yana said.

Yana’s anti-bullying message is growing.

A podcast just started and a public service announcement is in the making too.

“Her legacy to me, it’s just, it’s going to carry on, far past when I’m gone. Because, it’s just a ripple effect. She effects one youth, who effects the next, who effects the next, who effects the next, for generations to come,” Yamada said.

Yana’s work is not done. She plans to study clinical social work next year at Bellevue College. She hopes to focus on working with kids.