In 2004, Arlene Gibson was working as a corporate lawyer and caretaking for her aging mother. Right before her mother passed away, she told Gibson to switch directions in her life and change career paths to something more involved with helping others. This set Gibson on a path that would eventually cross with that of Carol Oxenrider, who, after her husband died, yearned to spend her life helping others. Together, Oxenrider and Gibson founded Younity in Bend in 2006.
Younity is a local nonprofit that advocates for bullying and suicide prevention through educational services and programs for both kids and adults. The organization has reached nearly 10,000 kids in Central Oregon, helping them deal with issues such as bullying through an approach that is based around love and healthy communication. “We don’t fight, and we always preach nonviolence,” Gibson said. “That being said, we do teach kids how to deal with bullying on both sides of the issue.”
Younity teaches that bullying and other types of aggression come from some sort of pain or trauma from inside the bully. With this mentality, the organization has led seminars and assemblies in local schools where students who are bullied learn techniques to deal with the situation, while kids who bully are helped to understand why they bully, and what healthier ways there are to express emotions. “I’ve seen kids who you would never think would be friends, kids who have been bullying one another, stand up and apologize to those who they hurt,” Oxenrider said.
Through their programs, Younity teaches skills that kids will find valuable as they grow and mature, such as emotional maturity, healthy ways of dealing with trauma and conflict resolution. Take Younity’s Inspiration Day, for example. This program is set in school and is tailored for students, parents and all staff. Through assemblies, individually tailored classroom lessons and small group workshops, Younity provides people with the confidence and the know-how to recognize bullying, stand up to it and communicate about it in healthy ways. Aside from bullying, Younity also offers programs to support mental health in students and raise awareness for depression and suicide.
Younity is able to do so because of the generous work of more than 2,000 volunteers and a dedicated board of directors; so dedicated to helping children that Younity is one of the only local nonprofits with no salaried employees, meaning that all money raised goes towards programs that help kids and families.
A board member who would prefer to keep her last name anonymous said she was excited to learn about a Central Oregon organization advocating for bullying prevention. “Bullying is an important issue in this day and age, especially with it becoming more pervasive thanks to social media,” Claire said.
On the future of Younity, the board is optimistic. Claire said, “I believe Younity will evolve with the changing needs of young people. We are always looking for more members to join this wonderful organization to help us further advance the impact Younity has on our community.”