iChoose, which launched in 2010 as a transformative anti-bullying initiative, is a youth-empowerment movement designed to help put young people back at the controls of their own inner experience of life. The iChoose program consists of a 20-minute mini-musical performance for teenagers followed by a heart-to-heart dialogue between cast members and audience. The performance portion, which utilizes music, dance, rap, role-playing and personal testimonials, serves as a power vehicle to open the hearts of the young audience members for the dialogue session to follow.
The program now offers a variety of options for engagement with schools and students on various scales, with many schools playing host to a video of the musical performance as a prelude to very impactful post-viewing dialogue sessions. The video has been proven effective for both large assemblies and individual classroom events.
While learning about the various forms and causes of bullying and how to avoid and avert them, and gaining awareness of under-the-radar bullying methods known as “passive violence” — name-calling, teasing, insults and other disrespectful behavior — students are also encouraged and empowered to eliminate their own versions of “victim consciousness.”
Students have the opportunity to increase their awareness that they, themselves, can become catalysts for immediate positive change by exercising their power to choose peace and happiness inside themselves.
The iChoose project is based on Philosopher and Peace-Builder Daisaku Ikeda’s vision for youth: that each young person has unlimited potential and power. When encouraged, each is capable of remarkable things. It is vital that we maintain an unwavering conviction that one person can and always does make a difference. Each person has a unique and important mission in this life.
ICAP has produced iChoose programs in various locations around the globe, including: Hawaii, Southern California, New York, New Jersey, Illinois; Oslo, Norway; and Auckland, New Zealand.
The impact of iChoose has been felt at:
5 American states
Reaching more than 32,000 students with its message of authentic empowerment.
“Before iChoose came to Molokai High School, we had two to three fights daily. It was a very critical situation. Two months after iChoose came, we had no fights. The result was very clear.” (Ric Ornelas, a faculty member of Molokai High School, Ho’olehua, Hawaii)
“[The iChoose production inspires students to] start questining: ‘If this was happening to me, what would I do or say? And what am I prepared to do for somebody else? If you can think about it beforehand, it empowers you to deal with the actual situation if and when it comes to you. The students are leaving today’s event more prepared to deal with such situation.” (Angelica Pereyra, art teacher at Palisades High School, Pacific Palisades, California)
“Not only was the performance entertaining to the students, but the content and substance was so important for them at this time. Over the last 30 years that I have served in education, the lives of the students have changed dramatically. They are beset by all kinds of difficulties involving violence, bullying, etc. The iChoose program affords students the opportunity to consider the support system around them and their own inner strength or potential with which to counteract the difficulties they face daily. I highly recommend it to any other school district. It will have a real impact on reducing violence and bullying on school campuses,” (Patrick Kelleher, executive director, division of personal services for Riverside County, California)
“Sometimes bullying may seem like nothing at all, but if you let it happen, people start thinking that it’s OK. Then crime escalates and serious things happen. Today’s iChoose production has come about at a significant time. I hope all New York City schools get to see iChoose.(Christine Quinn, New York City Council Speaker)
“You were so inspirational . . . I’m a female who has thought about suicide sometimes. But since I’m only 13, how could this be possible? Thank you so so so much for coming. It made me see that I’m not alone. I have now chosen to see my school guidance counselor, because I know it’ll do me good to let it all out. Thank you again. Just so you know, I’m crying, but with happiness because for once in a long time, I’m happy as a choice.” (Anonymous, student, Waiuku College, Waiuku, New Zealand)