Dania Beach’s Humanity Project Serves the Children Who Create It

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Question: What happens when you let a bunch of kids take control of a website and create for their peers what they think is right? Answer: The Humanity Project for Kids.

“It really grew out of the writing,” says Bob Knotts, founder of the Humanity Project and its most recent offspring. Knotts had been journalist for a long time before then, and had written many books and plays (and a slew of articles for Newsweek’s travel magazine, Reader’s Digest, and the Sun-Sentinel, among others). Most of his books were for kids.

“I began having a strong feeling for educating children.”

When a Miami theater commissioned one of his plays about teen suicide, his writing crossed the border into activism.

“I thought ‘if I could create an organization that focuses on people’s craving for being appreciated, and use that in a constructive way, I could apply the ideas and do more than just write about them,” Knotts told SFGN. “It really is about trying to find way to help individuals feel better about themselves with the goal of improving society.”

The group he created, Thp4kids, is focused on “socially isolated youth,” commonly known as “disengaged youth.” A grant from State Farm made it all possible. Knotts says that he considers State Farm one of the more community-minded companies out there because of the grants they make available to social issues projects (the company also advertises with SFGN — full disclosure).

“It’s 99 percent student-created for their peers with a heavy LGBT angle to it, Knotts said, pointing out that LGBT youth make up a large portion of the “disengaged youth” he’s previously mentioned. The site’s intended to be engaging and funny, but can get serious (with a blog from Knotts about being bullied as a child, for example).

“We deal with some really central issues about how you see yourself and how you deal with life,” Knotts said, adding that the kids running the site have been known to produce a song or two, as well. “I hope that we reach a big international audience.”

Many of the kids running the site have also shared their own experiences with bullying or coming to terms with who they are — or even about how to deal with divorcing parents.

Here’s one from sophomore Haley, titled: “Don’t Blame Yourself”:

From a young age we learn that love never lasts.

Nearly 50% of marriages in the U.S. end in divorce nowadays and many families only stick together because of the economy. But when I was in 6th grade, divorce seemed to be a foreign concept to me. I only had one friend whose parents were divorced, and they had ended up remarried.

My mother was the one who broke the news to me. She had dropped me off at the house of a friend of hers and gone to pick up my aunt at the airport. When they both showed up, I knew something was off; my aunt lives, along with the rest of my family, up in New Jersey. Only something incredibly important could have pulled her away from her two young boys to visit us in humid Florida. My mom took me upstairs and told me that she was divorcing my father, and that was when I started crying. I knew my father wasn’t a good man—he drank, he yelled, and he was angry most of the time for no reason—but I thought that maybe they could work it out.

I sobbed for an hour, nearly two. She told me that there was no way they could go back to what they once were, and that all we could do was move on and live a healthy life. I took her words to heart. When your world falls down around your ears, you find ways to cope. At first, they may be destructive. You may cry, for days and weeks and months; you may take up cursing like a sailor; you may eat too much, or too little, and claim that you need to eat more or eat less; all manner of things.

But after a few months, a year, you discover that you’re actually very good at painting, or singing operas in the rain, or Frisbee. You begin to do three hours worth of Calculus homework just because the numbers make sense while everything else doesn’t. You learn to live again, regardless of which parent you’re living with.

Don’t blame yourself – humans, unlike swans, wolves, and prairie voles, often do not mate for life. You have your life to live, and you should never spend it worrying about the past.Jacob Long

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