Rams, Long Join Character Plus Effort #StartsWithUs

Posted Nov 9, 2015

St. Louis Rams, Chris Long and students from seven Missouri and Illinois high schools joined forces under the hashtag #Startswithus in an attempt to lead the fight against cyber bullying.

Last week, the St. Louis Rams, defensive end Chris Long and students from seven Missouri and Illinois high schools joined forces under the hashtag #StartsWithUs in an attempt to lead the fight against cyber bullying.  

CharacterPlus is the uniting organization of the movement and on the whole it serves to build strong school communities that foster character development among adults and students. Diane Stirling has been with CharacterPlus for 17 years and describes it as a membership organization for school districts that provides access to national speakers, development opportunities and student leadership summits.

“There’s lots of tangents from it, but what we are about is the way in which people focus on themselves and their relationships,” Stirling said. “We learn what it takes to build community in a classroom, build inclusion and a sense of belonging school-wide.”

The #Startswithus campaign was born last year through one of the student leadership summits. Each school participating in the movement sent representatives to the summit and the group’s specific goal was to eradicate cyber bullying by raising awareness of the problem. It also set out to combat the issue by being intentional in building others up.  

Long, who began supporting the initiative when it was introduced last, helped kick off this year’s effort at Affton High School. He spoke to the student body in a question-and-answer format, fielding inquiries from Affton students on how he manages his own social media accounts and the ways he sees it used in today’s culture.

“I think it’s an easy way for people to do something that they feel like there’s no accountability for what they’re doing,” Long said. “We see it as professional athletes. I can count on one hand the number of times someone has come up and said something really nasty to me, but it’s in the thousands in social media. I think that’s just a microcosm of what kids go through.”

Long explained this side of the topic, but also relayed to the students that social media has been integral in building his own foundation and for interacting with fans.

“Social media can be used for both extremes and that’s what you’re trying to convey,” Long said. “Social media isn’t the problem, but social media allows the problem to happen because it gives negative people a platform.”

Steven Brotherton, the Affton Schools superintendent, said he was grateful to have Long participate in the event and was excited to see schools across the state come together through this campaign.

“A few years ago you probably wouldn’t have been able to unite like this to come together and combat bullying so this is a real exciting thing.”

Affton was joined in the #Startswithus campaign by high schools including Bolivar, Collinsville, Fox, Herculaneum, Lindbergh, and Soldan International. Students from each high school exchanged encouraging posts via Twitter and Instagram to help build spirit and awareness.

“It’s good to be connected with the Affton school district with all the other school districts that are participating in this,” Brotherton said. “As I’m watching Twitter today I’m noticing we’re trending well beyond just the school district. We are seeing people across the region that are tweeting and talking about being kind to one another and doing the right thing, standing up for one another. We’re really glad to have the Rams and Chris Long support our initiative as a St. Louis community. It’s a great thing for us to start something and hopefully it will start something nationally.”