As part of our continuing effort, The Harlem Times will profile exceptional young people from all over the nation. The goal is to showcase academics, career choices, and the individual characters of some of the finest men and women of this present generation.
In this edition we feature Lauren & Victoria Coaxum, ages 18 and 16 respectively, and Co-Founders of Think Before You Type, Inc. (TBYT), an anti-cyber bullying organization initiated by the sisters in the summer of 2012. Victoria is a junior at Daniel Boone High School in Birdsboro, PA and plans to spend her senior year abroad as a foreign exchange student. Lauren, a pre-med student, is in her sophomore year at Marymount University in Arlington, VA.
Why did you create the Think Before You Type movement?
Victoria: We noticed a lot of cyberbullying on Twitter…again and again. One night we decided we should do something about it. So we established a website called “firstname.lastname@example.org.”
Lauren: We want to raise awareness about cyberbullying, promote positive self-esteem and, most of all, encourage young people to use the Internet for good.
What have been the most interesting things you have learned since starting your organization?
Lauren: First, we learned how to blog and how to establish an identity on major social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. Victoria: We also created YouTube videos to “Dare” other young people to do positive things in their communities.
Lauren: Recently, I had the opportunity to speak at a conference hosted by the “Family Online Safety Institute” in Washington DC. And in October, we were both panelists at “The Digital Family Summit” in Baltimore. Victoria: And we also spoke at Rehoboth Baptist Church in Columbia, South Carolina and at St. Andrews Middle School also in Columbia. Lauren: We’ve also learned how expensive and time consuming it is to travel to these events and so we’re learning how to fundraise.
What do consider your most rewarding experiences so far?
Victoria: We really enjoy interaction with people…speaking with students, adults, anyone who will listen, about the repercussions of cyberbullying and the importance of positive internet use. Lauren: We were awarded a grant as a result of receiving the ABC Summer of Service Award, and Victoria received a grant when she was chosen to be the Youth Ambassador for Pennsylvania’s National Child Awareness Month.
How do you see applying what you learn to benefit society as a whole?
Victoria: Over the past year and a half, we’ve increased our online presence dramatically and now reach people in approximately 100 countries, including the U.S.
Lauren: And we’re hoping that as time goes on, people will become more passionate about the very real dangers of cyberbullying and, hopefully, they’ll realize that stopping it is crucial to the well-being of today’s youth.