An Upper Iowa University alumna is bringing an empowering message to the University’s Fayette campus to help people of all ages eliminate negativity in social media. Kim Karr ’01 will host a pair of #iCANHELP assemblies geared toward area fifth- through eighth-grade students Wednesday, Feb. 17, before holding a public session at 6:30 p.m. in the UIU Student Center.
A Decorah native, Karr currently teaches physical education and leadership to students at Excelsior Middle School in Byron, Calif. In 2013, she and fellow leadership instructor Matt Soeth were inspired to co-found #iCANHELP after a concerned student shared that a fake and damaging Facebook page had been created about a local teacher.
The two educators quickly discovered that students wanted to do something about bullying and negativity on social media sites; they just needed to be provided the right tools to respond. Through school assemblies, student leadership trainings, social media campaigns, and public presentations, #iCANHELP now provides young people the added confidence to better control the influences in their lives.
“Our message is clear. One person has the power to make a difference in removing online negativity and combating bullying in his, her, or another individual’s life,” explained Karr. “We want young people to learn how they can provide a positive influence to others suffering from bullying. Whether it be by checking in on someone who is having a bad day, commenting on a rude post, or reporting hateful sites, one person can make a difference!”
Karr noted educators across the nation are witnessing an increase in social media problems spilling onto their campuses. School personnel are inquiring how to deal with the issue and how to better educate students about social media and its proper use.
In addition to being fearful of speaking out against cyber or any type of bullying, students often question why so many adults don’t understand how important social media is to today’s youth. At the same time, parents are asking: How old should my child be to get their own social media site? What ARE all of these social media sites? How can I keep my child/teenager safe online?
#iCANHELP staff members have spoken to elementary, middle, and high school students at an estimated 150 schools since the organization’s inception. Currently, Karr has taken a yearlong leave of absence from her teaching duties to distribute the program’s message to schools and communities in the U.S., Canada, and potentially England and Sweden.
Motivated by UIU experience
Kim Karr chose to attend Upper Iowa University after being heavily recruited to play Peacock softball by former UIU head coach Karla Gavin. The smaller class sizes and friendly Campus also influenced the Decorah High School graduate’s decision to attend Upper Iowa. With a passion for helping people and making a difference in their lives, Karr chose to pursue a degree and career in education.
“I am very fortunate to have had really great educators, who have impacted my life. Many of them motivated and believed in me even during times when I was a low-performing student,” she said.
Karr credits her high school physical education teacher Cindy Albers for talking about life and pursuing something you love. Meanwhile, her high school softball coach Dave Meyer taught her how to be a passionate leader and how to speak from the heart.
“Then when I attended UIU, many of the faculty, staff, and students became a family to me,” she continued. “I mean, how many college students can say they were invited over on several occasions to have dinner with their professors’ families, prayed alongside the university’s dean of students, taught their friends from California how to milk a cow, all while playing on multiple sports teams.
“The personal relationships that I created with my professors were by far life changing. Kathy Thomas adopted me my freshman year when I was the only girl in her all male Foundations of English class. It was such an emotional year for me and I have no clue how I would have done it without her,” said Karr, who now resides in Antioch, Calif. “Dr. Gail Behan noticed right away that I had ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) and taught me the skills to help deal with the learning disability.”
This continuing support system helped Karr find “the perfect job” at Excelsior Middle School. In return, she is now spreading the message that you and #iCANHELP those around us.